4 March, 2021Sintracarbón continues to fight for decent jobs and working conditions at Cerrejón, Colombia, while the company is putting pressure on 450 workers to accept voluntary retirement. If they don’t, the workers will be dismissed without just cause.
According to IndustriALL Colombian affiliate Sintracarbón, on 23 February, Cerrejón threatened 450 workers with dismissal if they didn’t accept retirement. Some of the workers suffer from occupational health disorders.
According to the union, Cerrejón hired a law firm to communicate with the workers instead of engaging in a good faith dialogue with Sintracarbón. The company is offering the workers a sum; if they accept it is called a mutual agreement. If they don’t, they are dismissed without just cause and the sum will be lower. The workers are given a mere two hours to make the decision.
“We reject this unjustified massacre on labour. Sintracarbón’s national board of directors has just met and is evaluating what political or legal action to take,”
says Igor Diaz, Sintracarbón president.
Cerrejón, owned by multinationals Glencore, BHP and Anglo American, and Sintracarbón signed a collective agreement in November 2020, ending a 91-day conflict. The workers launched the historic strike to defend the collective agreement. In addition, the union rejected a work shift that would affect workers' health and eliminate 1,250 jobs.
Sintracarbón argues that the company has been looking for ways to reduce staff to save costs. However, the union believes that coal prices have begun to rebound and that, so far in 2021, the company has seen revenues of US$124.5 million, with profits above US$37.9 million, while exporting 2.5 million tons of coal.
Igor Diaz says that this shows that "the company is and will continue to be sustainable in the international coal market."
In a letter to Cerrejón, IndustriALL general secretary Valter Sanches, calls on the company to desist from its unfair labour practices.
“We urge Carbones del Cerrejón Limited to act in good faith, in accordance with the current collective agreement and to take into account the invaluable contribution and sacrifice of workers, to both the profitability and sustainability of the company.
“We ask you to reverse the massive layoffs and abandon the shift changes introduced earlier this year, as we believe it has led to a reduction of the workforce,”
says Valter Sanches.