Angered by President ‘Pepe,’ Teachers Strike Again in Honduras

Kari Lydersen

Tens of thousands of teachers are on strike again in Honduras, just two months after they ended a months-long strike through a tenuous agreement with the contested government of President Porfirio Pepe” Lobo Sosa.

On November 3, thousands of teachers and students marched through the capital Tegucigalpa protesting a new wave of attacks on the powerful teachers unions by Lobo’s government. Streets were shut down for about four hours as teachers from around the region marched from the national university to the presidential palace.

Along with actions that have specifically targeted educators, the protesters also decried Lobo’s gutting of a minimum wage increase law that was supposed to take effect in January. Lobo has failed to pay minimum wage increases retroactively, as enshrined in the law, and has also instituted a new scale with lower overall increases and differing increases for different sectors —a move seen as directly retaliatory against teachers.

The blog Honduras Resiste explains:

The special articles which Lobo repealed (including Article 49 of the Teachers’ Law) guaranteed annual wage increases indexed by set percentages to the yearly increases in the minimum wage. These articles applied to teachers, government workers, public health employees, and public education professionals.

The regime wants to eliminate the regular increases and the percentages and force the affected unions to accept whatever increases the government says are affordable each year. This is aimed especially at the teachers, whose militant and organized struggles over many years won for them many benefits and a somewhat higher wage index than other professions.

Major teachers unions allege Lobo’s administration has violated the Aug. 30 agreement which ended their last strike. Lobo’s government had promised back pay to 5,500 teachers to compensate for work lost during the last strike; and his government had promised the repayment of about $159 million worth of missing pension funds. About 1,000 teachers have received back pay to date.

After signing the agreement that re-opened schools two months ago, Lobo made the statement:

Can you imagine what it means for a child to miss every day of school, and not receive school lunches? The damage is educational, nutritional and emotional; and I say today, no more.

Last winter Honduras’ human-rights ombudsman called the teachers strike a human rights violation” for keeping students out of school, and even suggested teachers should be charged with terrorism.

Leaders of the National Front of Popular Resistance hold Lobo’s government largely responsible for the continuing murders and other brutal attacks against union members and other resistance leaders — including the murder of 12 teachers in overtly political situations since the coup of June 2009. In March, well-known teachers union member Jose Manuel Flores Arguijo was gunned down in broad daylight.

The 65,000 members of the Federation of Teaching Organizations and other teachers have played a major leadership role in the National Front of Popular Resistance, including with a hunger strike last spring regarding the retaliatory firing of regional school officials.

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Kari Lydersen is a Chicago-based journalist, author and assistant professor at Northwestern University, where she leads the investigative specialization at the Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications. Her books include Mayor 1%: Rahm Emanuel and the Rise of Chicago’s 99%.

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