Justice for the trade unionists murdered in Guatemala - Guarantee of freedom of association and the
right to collective bargaining.
We are writing to you to demand justice for murdered trade union leaders and for a guarantee of
freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining.
The recent sentencing of ex-dictator Efraín Ríos Montt to 80 years imprisonment for genocide and
crimes against humanity by the Guatemalan Supreme Court of Justice is an important step towards
building a culture of peace in Guatemala. The international trade union movement welcomes the fact
that the Executive Power has respected the Court’s findings and rulings.
We must now build on this victory, achieved as a result of large-scale mobilisation by Guatemalan civil
society, extending it to cover all social sectors that have for decades been suffering under the burden of
violence and impunity. The trade union movement in particular is one of the main targets of this
In excess of 56 trade unionists have been murdered in the last three years alone, in addition to
numerous cases of torture, kidnappings, raids and death threats which have created a culture of fear
and violence. Violations of freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining have been
constant during this period. This data has earned Guatemala the shameful title of the most dangerous
country in the world for trade unionists according to the International Trade Union Confederation
The current government claims to be different and that it needs more time to address workers’
concerns. This has also resulted in an undertaking by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) to
investigate crimes against trade unionists and violations of trade union rights, amongst other actions.
The international trade union movement was surprised to hear through the 2013 Report of the ILO
Committee of Experts of the alleged advances that the government has made in a number of cases. It
stated that progress had been made even though the report did not supply any concrete results
The most worrying fact is that of the 58 murders acknowledged by the government over the last six
years, the practice of trade union activities has been accepted as motive in only 2 of the cases. The other
murders have been classified as so-called common crimes such as “extortion”, “personal differences” or
a “crime of passion”.
We fully support social dialogue but we must act now. The international trade union movement and the
victims’ families would like these cases to be investigated and the perpetrators duly punished. Despite
numerous promises and documents signed by successive governments, the truth speaks for itself: no
one has ever been convicted in Guatemala for the murder of a trade union leader.
Guatemalan workers will not have the life that they aspire to, with decent work and social cohesion
while the lives of trade unionists remain unprotected and while the ILO Conventions are not respected
and implemented and violations continue to go unpunished.
We call on the government to advance social dialogue towards the genuine respect for freedom of
association and the lives of trade unionists. In order for anti-trade union violence to cease, independent
judicial investigations must be carried out without delay so that the material and intellectual
perpetrators can be punished with the full force of the law.