Luis Barboza, president of the Sandinista Labour Central – Jose Benito Escobar (CST-JBE) discussed last week with Italian reporter Giorgio Trucchi how worker rights have improved under the government of President Daniel Ortega.
Barboza said that during the previous sixteen years the Ministry of Labour (MITRAB) was an unconditional ally of private industry. That “changed completely” with Ortega’s 2007 inauguration. Barboza said that enforcement of International Labour Organisation (ILO) standards has become government policy. MINTRAB has improved the quality and quantity of inspections, even conducting some unannounced Free Trade Zone factory inspections at night which have uncovered many violations.
Barboza also praised the formation of the tripartite commission of business owners, labour unions and the government which has improved labour stability through negotiated and regular incremental increases in the minimum wage. He said that under the Sandinista government in 2010 alone workers were able to form 25 new unions and a new union federation. He said that there has been a total change of attitude in MINTRAB, but that its enforcement abilities “are very limited” and that there is “profound impunity” making difficult the defense of labour rights. The CST-JBE is pushing for legislation in the National Assembly to improve labor rights and to codify the eight ILO conventions.
In other labour news, Robert Gonzalez, secretary general of the Sandinista Workers Central, (a different labour federation than the CST-JBE) called for a meeting with President Ortega following a meeting Ortega held with the Superior Council of Private Enterprise (COSEP) which represents Nicaragua’s largest corporations. Gonzalez said that the CST wants input with the Sandinista government over issues such as the agreement with the International Monetary Fund and reform of Social Security. He laid out the CST demands for the next round of minimum wage negotiations which include a 10% increase for small and medium businesses, 16% for other businesses and 18% for the farming and ranching sector. The union also wants the construction of 1,000 homes for Free Trade Zone workers. (Radio La Primerisima, Jan. 18; El Nuevo Diario, Jan. 20)