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Workers of the Americas share their concerns about citizen insecurity with the countries of the region

  June 5, 2011

Worker representatives from around the Americas today held a dialogue with the representatives of the Organization of the American States (OAS) member countries and with Secretary General José Miguel Insulza, as part of the forty-first regular session of the OAS General Assembly. The labor leaders shared their concerns about citizen security, the main theme of the gathering of the hemisphere's foreign ministers, which opens today in the Salvadorian capital.

The worker representatives spoke about what called "the crisis of security in the Americas" from the perspective of the labor movement; citizen insecurity, and anti-union violence; social harmony and democracy and moving towards peace in our towns; the role of the state in preventing crisis and fighting poverty; and coherent public policies with human rights for migrant workers.

Secretary General Insulza pointed to the unemployment situation in the region and to economic policies that have influenced it, underscoring his concern for young people, who are especially vulnerable to the consequences of unemployment and crime. "In terms of security, we are concerned that nearly half of the unemployed are young people," the Secretary General said. "This is even more directly related to the issue of security: when we talk about security, we must remember that one in four young people in Latin America and the Caribbean is neither studying nor working, and these issues must be brought to the fore because, contrary to popular belief, the vast majority of serious crimes that are committed affects the most vulnerable segments of society," he added.

The OAS leader underscored as well the importance of respect for the rights of the workers. "I believe in competitiveness, but I cannot subscribe to competitiveness that is based only on cutting salaries to pretend there is greater productivity," the Secretary General remarked. "And that was what happened in our region for many years, which meant, furthermore, vehemently attacking labor organizations and depriving workers of rights they had won," he argued. He went on to note that "we still have a long way to go in that direction; it is an agenda that should be ongoing for us."

Moderating the event, Foreign Minster Hugo Martínez, of El Salvador, observed that "the problems related to insecurity and violence affect millions of workers in our region, causing unrest and instability in that sector, in public peace, and in society at large." To bring about peace in our societies, “it is important to have dialogue between workers and the Heads of Delegation of the member states and the General Secretariat as a mechanism from which solutions can be found based on areas of agreement," he added.

Speaking on behalf of workers were Sarahi Molina, General Secretary of the Movement for Labor Unity of El Salvador (MUSYGES); Rafael Freire, Secretary for Economic Policy and Sustainable Development of the Labor Confederation of the Americas (CSA); and Antonio Jara, representative of the Chair of the Trade Union Technical Advisory Council (COSATE).

In a Trade Union Statement they presented to the OAS member country delegations, the worker representatives argued that social inequality was "the main engine" of citizen insecurity and that workers were, as a result, the most affected sector in the entire region. "The causes of the violence and citizen insecurity are structural in nature, and this is manifested in the strength and imposition of the neo-liberal development model that has led to the unraveling of states, and, as a result of those exclusion policies, social policies have been eliminated or drastically reduced," they argued.

They particularly defended the rights of workers, especially domestic workers; urged the countries to protect migrant workers; rejected violence orchestrated against labor union members and their organizations and attacks against women, who "experience violence, deprivation, human trafficking, and other problems of insecurity differently from men, and mainly in the domestic arena, a difference that stems primarily from the construction of gender-based social roles.”

“We call on the countries of the region to promote an aggressive response with policies that ensure sustained and environmentally-sustainable development—policies which create quality jobs and are fully in keeping with the Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, as well as all those principles that are included in the ILO's Global Jobs Pact," the worker representatives added.

Addressing the event as well were the delegations of Argentina, Uruguay, Venezuela, Trinity and Tobago, Honduras, Mexico, Colombia, Nicaragua, Brazil, and Bolivia.

A gallery of photos of the event is available here.

For more information, please visit the OAS Website at

Reference: E-708/11