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Colombia - IndustriALL demands guarantees for assaulted USO union leader

22 June, 2016Dibeth Quintana, a leader of the oil workers’ union, USO, was assaulted several times by an Ecopetrol security supervisor and national police officers. IndustriALL condemns this attack and demands guarantees from the Colombian government.

On 27 May 2016, Quintana, Secretary for Peasant and Women’s Affairs at the SUO Pipelines union branch, visited Barrancabermeja refinery but was unable to gain entry because her access card had been blocked. When she tried to enter the refinery for trade union business, she was physically and verbally assaulted by the security supervisor and national police officers.

She was hospitalized and had to take thirteen days sick leave. The USO described the assault as “unacceptable” and “brutal aggression”. USO organized a meeting at Ecopetrol’s main entrance to denounce the attack and called on national and international trade unions to show solidarity by demanding that Ecopetrol show respect for women, especially trade union leaders, provide redress and prevent this type of incident happening again.

We demand that the national government and Ecopetrol’s board of directors and management comply with our collective agreement and national and international laws, which state that companies must not place restrictions on trade union freedoms,

said the union in a press release.

Jyrki Raina, IndustriALL Global Union General Secretary has written to the Colombian president, Juan Manuel Santos Calderón, demanding redress and guarantees for Quintana:

We request your immediate intervention to take the measures necessary to guarantee that the country’s judiciary take action against the individuals or companies responsible for the violence at Ecopetrol and provide redress for the injury suffered by Dibeth Quintana Duarte (…).

It is open to question whether your government and leading Colombian state companies respect the free exercise of trade union activity and the women workers of Colombia. We therefore request that you take action to provide redress and prevent this kind of thing happening again.

Finally, Edwin Castaño, USO press secretary, said that the union has written to the labour ministry to denounce “violation of the rights of trade unions and their leaders and activists, who are being denied access to installations at the new refinery plants”. Castaño said that the union had decided to initiate grievance procedures against the officials who interfered with the right to conduct trade union work.