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In Honduras, mayor privatises waste sector and sacks 700 municipal workers

17 July 2018
Multinational company demands exclusive rights over street cleaning, waste collection, transport and disposal at the landfill site in San Pedro Sula, the country’s second biggest city. Many trade union representatives among those dismissed.

On 30 April, in an unexpected and disrespectful move and without first informing SIDEYTMS, the trade union representing municipal workers, the mayor of San Pedro Sula, Armando Caledonio, announced the dismissal of more than 700 municipal waste collection and street cleaning workers, ensuring full control of these services by Holding Eléctrica, the Central American company better known as SULAMBIENTE.

The case goes back to October 2001, when the city’s then mayor, Oscar Kilgore, did not implement a controversial concession granted by his predecessor to the company - a trading consortium formed in that year with support from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).

In 2016, after a court case lasting more than 15 years, the Supreme Court ruled that the contract with SULAMBIENTE was valid and ordered the municipality to pay the plaintiff about US$7 million in damages.

The privatisation process countered the remunicipalisation of waste sector services that took place in 2003.


Call for reinstatement

Despite a campaign and legal action against the dismissals undertaken by SIDEYTMS and protests by other trade unions and social movements in the city, none of the dismissed workers have been reinstated, which makes it difficult for them to apply for other jobs in the municipality.

The PSI’s General Secretary, Rosa Pavanelli, expressed support and solidarity with the struggle of the workers and their union SIDEYTMS. She told President Ramiro Amaya that the PSI will publicise the case internationally and will call on the mayor to protect the labour and human rights of the municipal waste sector workers and ensure respect for labour rights covered by ILO Conventions.

She also said that the Confederation of Municipal Workers of the Americas (CONTRAM) will also publicise the complaints made by the union.

In 2017, in an Appeal to the Authorities (Spanish), the PSI Network of Waste Sector Workers in Latin America(Spanish), meeting in Bogota, Colombia, denounced the difficult working conditions, failure to respect rights and lack of decent work in the region’s municipal waste collection and management sector and called on mayors to fully recognise workers’ rights, guarantee their health and safety and “promote a local public service model for essential waste collection and management services in the interests of all rather than provide a business opportunity and income for some”.


Chronology

  1. The story began on 23 May 2001, when, eight months before the end of his term in office, the Mayor of San Pedro Sula privatised the management of about 1,000 tonnes/day of waste, granting a concession to SULAMBIENTE.
  2. On 27 February 2003, after pressure from the trade union and other civil society organisations in the city, the municipal council unanimously decided to annul the decision to award the contract to the company.
  3. In January 2004, SULAMBIENTE took legal action to claim damages in the San Pedro Sula Administrative Court, requesting:
  • Annulation of administrative order N°32 point N°2 dated 27 February 2003, which cancelled the 2001 tendering process and;
  • Payment of damages totalling US$ 6,682,919, including equipment costs.
  1. In January 2005, the San Pedro Sula Administrative Court instructed the Municipality of San Pedro Sula to pay US$8.2 million to SULAMBIENTE and annul the administrative order that cancelled the tendering process of September 2001.
  2. Once the ruling had been confirmed, city councillors approved a motion on 19 April 2005, authorising the then mayor (Oscar Kilgore) to start negotiations to resolve the dispute through conciliation.
  3. As the negotiations were not successful, the National Congress approved a new contract between the Municipality of Pedro Sula and SULAMBIENTE.
  4. A new municipal agreement on 22 October 2014 awarded a multi-million dollar contract to SULAMBIENTE for a period of 15 years, after compliance with an international tendering process.
  5. At the start of 2015, a group of social movements and trade unions, with the PSI’s support, organised a major campaign against this decision.
  6. On 30 April 2018, unexpectedly and without notifying the union, SIDEYTMS, the municipality dismissed 700 workers from the waste unit.
  7. There were a number of trade union representatives among the 700 dismissed workers.


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