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Unity and solidarity with Colombian trade unions!

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8 May, 2014IndustriALL Global Union’s First Latin America Regional Conference, held in Bogota, Colombia, on 4-8 May, took several initiatives in solidarity with Colombian trade unions, whose work is impeded by the systematic violation of trade union rights.

Jorge Almeida, IndustriALL Regional Secretary visited the El Cerrejón mine and was shown round the installations by SINTRACARBON representative, Igor Diaz. He talked with workers and met a representative of the company’s human resources department. Almeida expressed his concern about threats to workers in recent weeks, the effects of bad working conditions on workers and the community and the increase in outsourcing and subcontracting at the mine.

Fernando Lopes, IndustriALL Assistant General Secretary, visited Darío Cárdenas, vice president of the oil workers’ union, USO, in the department of Meta, who has been detained in Villavicencio prison since 2 November 2013 as part of a campaign of political persecution. Lopes told Cárdenas of IndustriALL’s total solidarity with him, other USO detainees and all those in prison as a result of the actions taken by government and employers to criminalise social protest.

Jyrki Raina, IndustriALL General Secretary, Jorge Almeida, IndustriALL Regional Secretary, Carlos Bustos, IndustriALL projects coordinator in Colombia and Igor Díaz of SINTRACARBON, met the Deputy Labour Minister, José Noé Ríos on 5 May, and the country’s Vice President, Angelino Garzón, on 6 May.

They expressed the union’s concern about the situation in Colombia, the persecution of trade union leaders and the violation of trade union and human rights. They raised the case of their young colleague, Campo Elias Ortiz, who is being prosecuted even though he was unjustly detained. They also asked the government representatives to secure the release of Darío Cárdenas.  

They expressed concern about the increase in outsourcing, precarious work and about the negative results of the Obama-Santos Plan. They called on the government to ratify International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention 176 on health and safety at work and to take measures to end the hundreds of workplace deaths, especially in the mining industry.

The Vice President agreed to organise a Tripartite Forum this year, with the assistance of the ILO and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, on the theme of trade union rights as human rights. A priority at this meeting would be a discussion on the right to join a trade union, especially in the context of the state oil company, ECOPETROL’s, attitude towards its employees and union members. More than 200 conference delegates concentrated outside Ecopetrol offices to show their solidarity for the workers. They travelled there on chivas (typical Colombian buses), displaying IndustriALL and solidarity banners.