Unions Denounce Mass Firings by ARENA Mayors
Following the May 1st inauguration of the mayors and city councils elected in last March’s elections, unions are reporting unjustified mass firings of municipal employees by newly-elected mayors from the right wing Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) party. The Union Federation of Municipal Workers of El Salvador (FESITRAMES) report that, in the month since new authorities took office, over 500 employees have been fired in municipalities now governed by ARENA that were formerly governed by the leftist Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN). Municipal workers from Soyapango, Mejicanos, Ilopango, San Martín, Apopa, Ayutuxtepeque, San Luis Talpa in La Paz, and Chinameca in San Miguel have reported the most firings. In Chinameca, of 60 total employees, 59 were fired. FESITRAMES and other public and private sector unions have been organizing street protests in front of the implicated mayors’ offices demanding the re-hiring of fired workers and respect for the workers’ right to stable employment. At the request of FESITRAMES, the Office of the Human Rights Ombudsman has opened up a space for mediation. However, on the first and only meeting on May 4 between the Human Rights Ombudsman Oscar Luna, the unions representing fired workers and the new municipal authorities, many mayors did not show up thereby stalling dialogue. Luna says the best way to resolve the problem is through dialogue but has also called on the Attorney General to open investigations into whether the firings are illegal. No such investigations have been opened. The FMLN fraction of the Legislative Assembly submitted a request to the Accounts Court (internal government auditing agency) calling on them to investigate all 262 municipal governments in the country for illegal firings. According to FMLN legislative representative Lorena Peña, the firings have a "political purpose and [were a form of] patronage... This patronage system is being used by in-coming ARENA mayors who are paying politial favors and are firing people to hire their family and friends." The fired workers, accompanied by other public and private sector unions, continue to organize protests outside of their previous places of employment and continue planning actions to pressure the authorities to reinstall them to their posts. The individuals who were fired from positions that require political trust with the city council are demanding the severance packages that are guaranteed by law, but have not been paid.