News that the military has withdrawn from Puerto Quetzal port in Guatemala and that privatisation plans have been temporarily put on hold as a result of an agreement between the government and the port workers’ union STEPQ (Sindicato de Trabajadores de Empresa Portuaria Quetzal) has been welcomed by the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) today (13 August).
Under the agreement, a 30-day period will allow government-mediated talks to take place between the Port of Quetzal (EPQ) and STEPQ. During that time, EPQ must suspend all actions against the union and the port operators will return to work.
Following the revelation last week that secret talks had taken place between the TCB (Barcelona Container Terminal) and the Guatemalan government to privatise Puerto Quetzal, and the news that the deal was to be officially announced on 7 August, the STEPQ reacted angrily and stopped port operations. The union had only just agreed a contract with the port on 11 July, without any knowledge of the privatisation talks.
Senior STEPQ representatives met Guatemalan President, Gen. Otto Perez Molina, and were told that they had 10 days in which to consider the deal. Yet within 72 hours, on 8 August, some 500 soldiers were sent in and took control of the port.
ITF general secretary David Cockroft said: “We welcome this breathing space for constructive talks to take place with STEPQ and hope all sides honour it. We are pleased to see workers being able to get back to work after the alarm over last week’s developments.”
– International Transport Workers’ Federation news release