The Salvadoran Union Front (FSS) together with other social movement organizations protested On June 30 at the Salvadoran Ministry of Labor demanding an increase to the minimum wage and the ratification of ILO Conventions 87 and 98. Francisco Garcia, FSS leader, argued that the increase in electricity, bus fare, and water prices form part of a packet prepared by the executive branch that affects the Salvadoran population even more. Organization representatives urged the government to increase the monthly minimum wage to $316.00, up from $158.00.
On Saturday, July 1, the bus fare hike went into effect; only 3 weeks after a government mandated 14% electricity rate increase. At least 2 buses were burned in protest of the measure. For the majority of Salvadorans, these increases are a blow to the family economy. A worker who earns the monthly minimum wage of $158.00 and takes 4 buses a day now spends 19% of their salary on transportation, up from 15%. The price of other goods and services has also risen. Meanwhile, a proposal to increase the minimum wage, which hasn’t budged in three years, is frozen in the Legislative Assembly. The Government says it is “consulting” on the issue.
On Monday, the Salvadoran Lutheran church called for peaceful protest against the fare hike. High school students in Santa Ana and numerous communities in Soyapango are protesting the raises on a daily basis, with a larger mobilization expected Friday. Today, high school students in San Salvador have stopped traffic at main intersections to demand reduced fare for students. Some bus drivers have refused to charge the new rate. Meanwhile, the Salvadoran Minister of Public Works accused the FMLN of manipulating the bus burnings and denounced a “return to the terrorism of the past.” But BPS leader Guadalupe Erazo responded. “These measures favor the interests of private companies to the detriment of the Salvadoran people.” In the latest increases, Salvadorans are feeling the impacts of neoliberal economics: the privatization of electric energy and the elimination of transportation subsidies.
The Salvadoran Government has also refused to sign-on to ILO Conventions 87 and 98, which respect a worker’s right to free union association and collective bargaining, respectively. SGP Plus benefits, which allow El Salvador to export to the European Union tariff-free, will expire at the end of the year if the Salvadoran Government does not approve the Agreements. The Salvadoran left has pointed to national financial elites’ mandate as the cause behind the government stalling of the Conventions.