The Guardian 6 July, 2005

Solidarity with El Salvador unionists

A group of Australian trade unionists, academics and solidarity activists is calling on people of goodwill to add their name to a letter to the President of El Salvador. The document (reproduced here) calls on President Antonio Saca to intervene in a dispute that was started when authorities sacked over a hundred postal and corrections workers. Eight of the unionists involved responded to this injustice with a hunger strike they have maintained since May 26.

There is widespread support in El Salvador for the sacrifice of the hunger strikers. The loss of a job in the crisis-riven Central American country is a tragedy for the workers and their families. It is believed that many of the sacked workers were selected in the latest round of budget cuts because of their union membership and activism. Some of the workers had over 25 years of service prior to their dismissal.

The left opposition FMLN has been supporting the cause of the hunger strikers inside and outside the Legislative Assembly. There have been marches and other street actions, grass roots religious organisations have held vigils and the National Cathedral has been occupied in solidarity with the cause of the workers.

Readers are requested to contact the organisers of the appeal to the President of El Salvador by contacting Lara Pullin on 0439601277 or emailing Zamora@netspeed.com.au

To the President of the Republic of El Salvador
Elias Antonio Saca
Casa Presidencial de El Salvador:
Telephone: 2248-9000

We write to express our concern for the welfare of the trade unionists who have been on hunger strike since 26th May 2005.

A hunger strike is a known form of non-violent ­resistance and political protest to achieve a goal such as a policy change. In modern democracies it was first used by women seeking the right to vote, then made more widely known by anti-colonial peace activist Mahatma Gandhi (Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi).

The Asocacion de Empleados Publicos y Municipales de El Salvador [AGEPYM] hunger strikers are putting their health and their lives on the line for this cause: the right to dignity and a paid job. These are long-term civil employees whom your government has treated poorly for their decades of service. The reaction by your deputy Enrique Albert Valdez Soto to laugh and make fun of a political protest of this magnitude is worthy of censure.

As President of the Republic you are in a unique position to resolve the situation facing these workers and we urge you to do as a matter of great urgency.

The social and economic crisis and the declining human rights situation in El Salvador is of great concern to expatriates in Australia, and also to Australian citizens generally, whether as trade unionists, human rights and solidarity advocates or elected members of Parliament in Canberra Australia.

We are the initial signatories to this letter, but we pledge to publicise this situation facing trade unionists in El Salvador until it is resolved and obtain further endorsements. Similarly, we will report on your response to our letter to the Australian Press.

Yours sincerely

Signed by concerned Australian citizens

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