The testimony of Prosegur workers 5 years later
July 30 marked the 5th anniversary of a manoeuvre orchestrated by Prosegur Paraguay and the Ministry of Labour, which ended with the mass dismissal of 327 workers affiliated to SITEPROPASA, the Union of Prosegur Workers and Employees.
The employment situation of these workers has been difficult in recent times. The vast majority of them have managed to get a job in order to survive, but not in the same profession. In many cases when they apply for a new job they are not hired because they belonged to a trade union.
According to Eligio Benítez, a former worker at Prosegur and a member of SITEPROPASA, the repercussions affect more than a person's livelihood: "When you don't earn any money and you have nothing to bring home, this creates domestic problems which often leads to seperation, which was my case. The situation is made worse by the fact that Prosegur is a company with a lot of power and a strong voice in the the Chamber of Security Companies and even at government level. The fact that I challenged the company and was subsequently dismissed meant that for a long time I was unable to get a stable job. Added to that, there is no denying the fact that people in Paraguay are denigrated for being trade unionists. About 70 to 80% of my fellow colleagues are loaded down with debt. Many of them have also seperated from their wives because they were simply unable to support their families. It is very difficult in such circumstances to get back on your feet.”
"We will continue our struggle, standing shoulder to shoulder with our union colleagues, we are not afraid. We are no longer concerned about the need to work, we are used to being rejected because we are trade unionists. I was employed by the company for more than 15 years. I worked Saturdays and Sundays. I worked even when I had a fever, or when I was in pain. I did not even know what the word to have fun meant, because I was always working", said Roberto Florentín, one of the 327 workers who was fired. This was the reason for our complaint.”
"I remember before our strike we were forced to work with trucks that were in a poor state of repair, with the air conditioning broken - and you have to remember that Paraguay is a hot country. When we needed to take a leak, we had to do it in the truck", he continued.
"It was very difficult to get a job, particularly in the private security sector. We were not given an employment contract, we were all unregistered workers. Because we were paid very low wages, there was no way I could pay off my debts. Even today, I work 7 days a week, without a single day off. I am barely making living and I have two children, but it is difficult to look after your children when you are being paid a pittance", says Mario Lomaquis, the General Secretary of the union.
Five years later, the voice of the workers continues to be heard, demanding justice and their reinstatement. We in UNI Americas stand alongside SITEPROPOSA and the workers of Prosegur throughout the region, and we denounce the company' s policies and its violation of human rights.