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Cablegate: Teachers Hope to Form First "Super" Union

VZCZCXYZ0009
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHMU #1547/01 1711615
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 201615Z JUN 07
FM AMEMBASSY MANAGUA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0589
INFO RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC

C O N F I D E N T I A L MANAGUA 001547

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/18/2017
TAGS: ELAB KDEM PGOV PHUM PREL NU
SUBJECT: TEACHERS HOPE TO FORM FIRST "SUPER" UNION

REF: A. MANAGUA 1083

B. MANAGUA 1495

Classified By: Charge Peter Brennan for reasons 1.4(B,D)

1. (C) SUMMARY: Democratic teachers' unions hope to form a
national alliance ("Central") in order to gain negotiating
power with the Ortega government and more effectivley contest
the alliance between Education Minister Miguel De Castilla
and pro-Sandinista teachers' union ANDEN. Union leaders will
announce their plans to form a Central on June 29, National
Teachers' Day. Nicaraguan human rights NGO, Nicaraguan
Permanent Commission for Human Rights (CPDH) is supporting
this effort. END SUMMARY.

2. (C) In a June 14 meeting with poloff, leaders from two of
the seven largest unions comprising the informal United
Teachers Union (USM) revealed plans to form a "super" union -
called a "Central" over the next few months. Doing so would
enable the education sector's democratic labor movement to
contest the negotiating power of ANDEN, the
government-aligned labor union that negotiated an agreement
with De Castilla that caused a two-month stand-off between
teachers and the Ministry, and brought the education sector
to the brink of revolt (reftel A).

Current Landscape of Teachers' Unions
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

3. (SBU) The Nicaraguan national education system includes
approximately 39,000 teachers, represented, roughly, by 23
labor unions. The largest single union, ANDEN, headed by
Jose Antonio Zepeda, claims to have about 20,000 members
nationwide. ANDEN is aligned with the current government.
Eleven unions are aligned with the Nicaraguan National
Teachers Confederation (CNMN), headed by Carlos Bojorge, who
is leading the current opposition movement against ANDEN.
The remaining teachers are scattered between the other 11
unions and have mixed ideological alliances. Further
complicating the landscape is the United Teachers Union
(USM). According to Bojorge, USM is not a legal union or
confederation, but a democratic labor movement that includes
members of CNMN and, claims Bojorge, the majority of the
otherwise non-aligned unions.

4. (SBU) During the February-April unrest in the education
sector this year, Bojorge and leaders of six independent
unions, led the opposition against Minister De Castilla and
ANDEN in the name of the USM movement. As such, USM claimed
to represent some 16,000 teachers (vs. 20,000 for ANDEN) and
over 17 separate unions (the eleven formally aligned under
CNMN plus the unions of each of the six leaders that united
with Bojorge's CNMN). During the two-month conflict, USM
became a household name, appearing almost daily on the
front-page of the national newspapers. However, at this
point, USM, according to Bojorge, is not a formally
incorporated labor confederation.

Exploiting the Labor Law
- - - - - - - - - - - - -

5. (C) Fearing that further collusion between ANDEN and De
Castilla will continue to undermine other unions, Bojorge and
others hope to exploit article 228 of the Nicaraguan Labor
Code (Law 185). Article 228 specifies that two legal labor
confederations within the same guild can form a "Central" - a
"super" confederation that would trump any single union or
confederation in labor negotiations. Although written into
the labor code, this article has never been exercised in the
education sector because, under the previous three Liberal
governments, democratic teachers' unions always had the upper
hand against the larger ANDEN and never contemplated
government action against them.

Opposition's Plan - Putting the Cart Before the Horse
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

6. (C) On June 29, National Teachers' Day, Bojorge and the
other union leaders backing the USM movement, plan to
publicly sign an agreement announcing the creation of USM as
a Central. As a show of worker solidarity and support for
the idea, USM leaders plan to invite 800 workers, if they can
secure a location and funding. CPDH has agreed to help
organize the event to further capitalize on the momentum
created by USM during teachers' work stoppage to advance its
own human rights agenda (reftel B).

7. (C) The problem, however, is that there is no second
labor confederation allied with CNMN at this time. By
pre-announcing their plan, Bojorge and others have shown
their hand, potentially giving ANDEN time to find or form its
own counterpart confederation to form a Central. It could
become a race to see who can first create a second
confederation and a Central. Bojorge believes that most of
the eleven "non-aligned" unions are predisposed towards the
USM, but underlined the need to meet face-to-face with union
representatives at the department level. He indicated that
he and other USM leaders were working with CPDH to develop an
aggressive plan to visit the departments. By October,
Bojorge hopes to have USM registered as a Central.

Comment
- - - -

8. (C) Bojorge, the driving force behind this labor
strategy, appears to be the right man for the job. In
contrast to the stereotypical firebrand labor leader, he is
serious, quiet, and has strong analytical skills. He knows
Nicaraguan labor laws and has a clear vision for creating a
unified labor movement. Aligning with CPDH was a smart move
because it elevates his struggle out of the labor arena,
broadening the potential support base while giving him access
to experienced well-connected organizers and some additional
financial resources. If Bojorge and company can move fast
enough -- taking advantage of the goodwill and brand
recognition built-up during the work stoppage -- their goal
of rapidly creating a second confederation and completing the
bureaucratic process to create a Central is feasible.
BRENNAN

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