Sunday, March 27, 2011

Labor Code for Dummies

The Lobo Sosa administration can't quite figure out Honduran labor law. They haven't figured out all the steps they need to actually suspend or fire the teachers who are on strike. They've tried several times to suspend or fire the striking teachers, and appear to still not have done everything required under Honduran law to make it legal.

First on March 18, Lobo Sosa declared an education state of emergency, abusing the emergency declaration laws, and threatened to replace the striking teachers. Five days ago, on March 22, the Lobo Sosa administration tried to suspend 1200 teachers who are participating in the strike. The declaration came from the Secretary of Education. Only one problem; that declaration violated the Codigo de Trabajo, Honduran labor law. Oops. The teachers then filed a legal challenge with the Supreme Court.

Today the Lobo Sosa government tried again, issuing a declaration that they were suspending them under Article 571 of the Codigo de Trabajo, the labor code. Article 571 states that once a strike is declared illegal (and article 570 covers who declares it illegal and how) the government has the right to dismiss the strikers and suspend for two to six months labor leaders who lead the strike.

To be valid, an act using Article 571 as the justification requires, under the rules of Article 570, that the Minister of Labor and Social Welfare have issued a prior finding of illegality using the criteria spelled out in Article 569. Once such a declaration is made, and communicated, the workers must cease their strike immediately or they may be dismissed or suspended. Without the Article 570 finding by the proper government official, Lobo Sosa's emergency decree replacing them, and today's firing of them does not comply with Honduran labor law.

So, has such a finding been made and communicated as Article 570 requires? I would have to say "no" based on the wording of today's declaration, which starts:
The Government of the Republic of Honduras to the National and International opinion, ..... declares the illegality of this collective suspension of work, the same that by virtue of law and by Administrative resolution, has already been declared, since the seventh of March of 2011...

So that would imply there has been no finding of illegality by the required party. It appears that Lobo Sosa has declared it illegal, not the Minister of Labor and Social Welfare, as required by law.

It is Felícito Ávila Ordóñez, Minister of Labor, who has been busy trying to negotiate the new minimum wage and being part of the government commission that took over running the Instituto de Prevision Magesterial (INPREMA) earlier this month who needs to issue the Article 570 declaration that the strike is illegal. He's made no pronouncements about the teacher's strikes, let alone issued a declaration that they are illegal. He's not been involved in mediating the strike, as required by law. He's not been involved at all. Sigh

Once again it would appear the Honduran government has failed to comply with, or even read and understand, its own labor code. Lobo Sosa cannot invoke Article 571 when the proper Article 570 declaration has not yet occurred.

Do over?

1 comment:

RNS said...

The government's claim is that they issued the proper declaration that the strike was illegal on March 7 but kept it secret.

Keeping it secret defeats the purpose of declaring the strike illegal. The reason for declaring a strike illegal is to prepare the teachers for an Article 571 action, but if you haven't communicated the declaration that the strike is illegal, you haven't complied with the Article 570 requirements and therefore cannot move on to Article 571 sanctions.

The government is still keeping the alleged declaration secret. Why?