Intro Guatemala

Guatemala is one of the 10 worst countries in the world for working people

Guatemala has long been plagued by endemic violence against workers. Engaging in the most basic of trade union activities remained a matter of life and death, and the government failed to provide protection to trade unionists or to investigate and prosecute anti-union crimes. Employers were free to engage in union-busting practices, such as summary dismissals.

Murder of Doris Lisseth Aldana Calderon

On 4 October 2023, the 33-year-old mother of four, Doris Lisseth Aldana Calderón, was brutally murdered while travelling home from work in the banana producing region of Izabal, northern Guatemala. Doris was a leader of the Sindicato de Trabajadores Bananeros de Izabal (SITRABI), and a member of the union’s Women’s Committee. She was one of two trade union representatives at her workplace, Bandegua, a subsidiary of the global brand Del Monte. Her trade union colleague was dismissed in early September.

Credit: Johan ORDONEZ / AFP

May Day demonstrations took place in Guatemala where trade unions continue their work under threat of severe violence, abduction and murder.

Factory closed to deter union organising

In March 2023, workers at Industrial Hana, a garment factory operating as an Export Processing Zone (EPZ) company, formally established the trade union Sindicato de Trabajadores y Trabajadoras de la Empresa Industrial Hana (SITRIHANA) and moved to have it registered. A week later, brands in the Republic of Korea that outsourced to Industrial Hana hastily withdrew their production without any justification and, because of this, the employment contracts for 235 workers were suspended. This move was seen as an attempt to avoid collective bargaining and thereby allow companies to continue to exploit workers in non-unionised factories for low-cost production.

In August 2023, the Ministry of Labour organised a mediation between SITRIHANA and Industrial Hana to discuss the non-recognition of the trade union by the company, the illegal suspension of contracts, and the non-payment of wages and other benefits. No agreement could be reached. In October 2023, Industrial Hana declared bankruptcy and refused to pay wages and other benefits, worth approximately US$ 1.5m, owed to workers, who subsequently filed a lawsuit against the company.