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Colombia - declaration of indefinite strike

18 March, 2015Workers in Colombia’s mining and energy sectors face anti-trade union practices, persecution and unfair dismissal. The Coordinating Committee for Trade Union Unity in the Mining and Energy Sectors (CUSME), including the leaders of the three unions involved in the proposed merger, met on 12 and 13 March in Bogota to discuss the next steps in the creation of a national mining and energy union and declared an indefinite strike in the oil sector.

The objective of the meeting was to build consensus and plan actions and activities to consolidate unity in the form of a large and strong national union. In the name of CUSME, the meeting also declared an indefinite strike in the oil sector from 19 March.

The meeting was chaired jointly by the presidents of the CUSME unions: Pablo Santos (Sintraelecol), Jairo Quiroz (Sintracarbon) and Edwin Castaño (USO). Marino Vani, Assistant Regional Secretary and Carlos Bustos, coordinator of  IndustriALL projects in Colombia represented IndustriALL Global Union.

The meeting discussed points of agreement and disagreement about the statutes for the new union, drafted at regional seminars in 2014 and worked on further by the coordinating committee since then. The meeting also discussed CUSME’s plan for activities and 12 regional seminars in 2015.

These seminars begin on 27 March in six regions of the country. More than 300 regional and local leaders will continue the discussion on joint action and consolidation of the mining and energy union.

Solidarity with indefinite strike

After formulating a plan to merge the three unions, delegates drafted a resolution calling for more measures to make CUSME a strong union. They drew up a joint action plan in response to the immediate challenges facing them and to consolidate class solidarity among the workers in the three sectors. They have the support of the country’s trade union centre, the Central Unitaria de Trabajadores (CUT), IndustriALL Global Union, Swedish trade unions represented by their trade union centre, Solidarity-LO-TCO and Dutch unions represented by the FNV.

“We in CUSME reaffirm our support for an indefinite strike in the oil sector starting on 19 March because we believe the government is getting ready to privatise, open up or sell state shares in the Colombian state’s most important company (Ecopetrol) to transnational companies” explained Edwin Castaño from USO.

The main reason behind the decision to declare an indefinite strike is the Colombian government’s under-investment in Ecopetrol, which is one of the world’s largest companies . The unions are calling on the company to distribute 70 per cent of the profits made in 2014 to workers. They want Ecopetrol to remain a 100 per cent state-owned company.

The strike is also designed in response to the intimidation of workers and to the many recent job losses in the oil transnational companies.

“We give our support and solidarity to the strike action taken by our colleagues in USO in response to the dismissal of 600 workers and in defence of the country’s oil policy and jobs” said Pablo Santos, Sintraelecol.

IndustriALL supports CUSME and all workers in the mining and energy sectors in their fight to defend their labour rights. It calls for solidarity with our Colombian colleagues and supports the strike that begins on 19 March.