Thousands March in Honduras to Demand Hike in Minimum Wage

[Source – Latin American Herald Tribune]


TEGUCIGALPA – who want the government to pay more than $200 million in past-due contributions to a pension and benefits fund.

The minimum wage, currently 5,500 lempiras ($290) a month, was supposed to go up in April, but the hike was put off due to complaints from the business sector, the secretary of the CUTH labor federation, Israel Salinas, reminded reporters covering the protest.

While the CUTH is calling for a 30 percent increase, Honduran unions say they are prepared to negotiate with the government on the exact figure.

Besides pressing the issue of the minimum wage, Wednesday’s protest was meant to spur President Porfirio Lobo’s government to reinstate workers fired by the National Autonomous University and pay the 4.6 billion lempiras ($242 million) the state owes the teachers’ pension and benefit fund, Salinas said.

The government has been in arrears to the fund since 2007.

Joining CUTH members for the march in Tegucigalpa were elements of the National Popular Resistance Front, a group formed after the June 2009 ouster of President Mel Zelaya as he prepared to hold a non-binding referendum on convening a constitutional convention.

Teachers withdrew last week from talks with a government commission to resolve the debt to the pension fund because the panel appointed by Lobo did not have the authority to decide on the dismissal of Education Minister Alejando Ventura, another of the teachers’ demands.

A leader of the resistance front, Juan Barahona, and CUTH chief Salinas said Wednesday’s protests were part of a growing movement toward a national general strike against the government of Lobo, who won the presidency last November in elections overseen by the coup regime.