Trade Unions in Central America


According to Countryaah, there are 7 countries in Central America and Guatemala is one of them. The trade union movement is weak in Guatemala but has in recent years managed to become more active. However, this has led to increased violence against union activists and the number of murders of union leaders has increased. Between 2014 and 2018, 90 union activists were murdered, according to world trade union ITUCs statistics.

Labor market legislation gives employees, including public employees, the right to form and join unions that can negotiate collective agreements if they represent more than 25 percent of the company’s employees. The right to form trade unions is guaranteed by law for everyone except the military and police. The workers on banana plantations and in the assembly industries have the most difficult working conditions.



Guatemala’s trade unions, like most popular organizations, have long been systematically persecuted and the proportion of trade unionists is around two percent. The most common crimes are mass dismissals, refusal to negotiate, murder of union leaders, beatings and extortion. Two central organizations are members of the ITUC World Trade Union Confederation: Confederación de Unidad Sindical de Guatemala (CUSG) and Unión Sindical de Trabajadores de Guatemala (UNSITRAGUA).


To form a trade union, at least 30 people are required and there may only be one organization per company or institution. Public employees may form trade unions, but civil servants may not negotiate collective agreements.

Employees of state-owned companies must notify six months in advance and obtain government approval before they can strike. Civil servants are not allowed to strike. The escalating violence also affects trade unionists and leaders of farm workers, and the trade union organization is systematically opposed.



As the trade union movement grew in strength in the 1950’s, the government created a series of parallel unions, “bought” several of the national leaders and managed to split the movement. The trade unions are still weak and fragmented. Just over seven per cent of the workers are organized, the teachers’ union and the care union are the strongest trade unions.
Three central organizations are affiliated to the ITUC World Trade Union: Confederación Unitaria de Trabajadores de Honduras (CUTH), Confederación de Trabajadores de Honduras (CTH) and Central General de Trabajadores (CGT).


All employees in the public and private sector, with the exception of the military and police, may form and join trade unions. At least 20 people are required to form a trade union. The right to collective bargaining is enshrined in labor market legislation. In order for a strike to be approved, at least 50 percent plus one of all members of the organization must vote for it. Before a strike can take place, the trade union must have the approval of the Ministry of Labor and the mediation process must have been exhausted.



In recent years, the government has invested heavily in creating new jobs in the so-called maquila factories in economic free zones. Those who try to conduct trade union activities are at great risk of being fired and blacklisted. The trade union movement is politically divided and just under six percent of the labor force is unionized.
There are four central organizations affiliated to the ITUC World Trade Union: Central de Trabajadores de Nicaragua (CTN), Central Sandinista de Trabajadores (CST), Confederación de Unificación Sindical (CUS) and Frente Nacional de los Trabajadores (FNT).


The legislation guarantees the right to organize and strike. To form a trade union, at least 40 members are required. Public employees do not have the right to organize in trade unions, but may form associations that have the right to negotiate collective agreements and a limited right to strike.

The government has the right to demand both mediation in a labor dispute and banning strikes. The law requires that government employees guarantee a minimum of activity and can forcibly recall at least 50 percent of the employees.



The law governing the independent channel authority prohibits strikes among its employees, but allows unions and collective bargaining. There are no collective agreements in the free zones and all conflicts must be resolved through mediation. Panama has three central organizations affiliated to the World Trade Union Confederation (ITUC): Confederación de Trabajadores de la República de Panamá (CTRP), Confederación General de Trabajadores de Panamá (CGTP) and Convergencia Sindical (CS).

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