Sunday, September 22, 2013

Murderous Attack on Dock Union Boss as Negotiations at Container Terminal Under Way

Neighbours Cause Perpetrators to Flee as Victim Moved to Secure Location
Shipping News Feature

HONDURAS – A most disturbing report has reached us of an attack made on a dockers trade union boss last week when several armed assailants tried to batter their way into the man’s home in a murderous attack, evidently with the intention of killing him. The incident apparently follows several anonymous death threats telling Victor Crespo to stop seeking a collective contract at the town’s port, which ICTSI (International Container Terminal Services Inc) won a concession to operate in February.

The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) tells us it is acting to defend Mr Crespo after the latest attack when the assailants reportedly yelled that he should ‘stop making noise organising stevedores’. Mr Crespo, general secretary of the Sindicato Gremial de Trabajadores del Muelle (SGTM), was at his Puerto Cortés home at 06:50 on 14 September when the assault took place. The ITF say the attackers only left the scene when they became aware of the number of witnesses they’d awakened in neighbouring premises and on leaving shouted through the door that if Crespo didn’t disappear they’d be back in eight hours to finish the job.

The attack happened after the SGTM, apparently acting in full accordance with national labour legislation, made requests for a collective bargaining agreement with the stevedoring companies of the port. The ITF is also being supported by Labourstart, which is launching an online campaign to assist Victor Crespo and his union. Following the attack the ITF has moved to ensure Crespo’s safety. He is now being kept in a safe place and the Honduran police, president, the ILO (International Labour Organization) and ICTSI have all been contacted and alerted.

The ITF has told the Honduran president that Crespo has made two formal complaints to the police but has been offered no protection and urges the government to intervene to provide this. The ITF has also stated that its affiliates globally want to see adequate guarantees given so that port workers are assured of the right to legally request and negotiate a collective bargaining agreement to regulate their labour conditions free from intimidation. Writing to the head of ICTSI, the ITF said:

“Death threats to a trade unionist on account of their promotion and defence of workers’ rights will not be tolerated by either our organisation or the millions of workers we represent. We have been in touch with the Honduran government over this matter and, as with any case of this gravity, we would be forced to take all possible global action should there be any suggestion of employer involvement in an intimidation campaign of this kind.

“We are hopeful of an immediate end to all violence and threats against Mr Crespo and his associates and for guarantees to be given over the rights of workers in Puerto Cortes to request and negotiate a collective bargaining agreement to regulate their labour conditions, and for that CBA to be respected.”

ITF Americas regional secretary Antonio Fritz commented:

“This was a shameful and cowardly attack that we believe is linked to the union’s legitimate and lawful request for a collective bargaining contract which, despite being repeatedly refused by the employers, it is certain to secure. We have no doubt that Victor is in danger of his life, and that the members of his union are also at risk. We are doing everything possible to defend him and them, but it is also time for the Honduran government and authorities to fulfil their obligations too.”

Photo: Victor Crespo