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Attack at Cerrejón coal mine

27 February, 2013The Oreganal pit at the Colombian Cerrejón coal mine was targeted in a terrorist attack at two o'clock in the morning of Sunday 24 February, damaging several lorries owned by Carbones del Cerrejón Limited, and causing millions of pesos worth of damage.

The national coal miners’ union, Sintracarbón, publicly condemned the attack. The union represents Cerrejón workers, who have been on strike since the beginning of February.

It declared its solidarity with the company, Carbones del Cerrejón Limited, which employs around 12,000 direct and outsourced workers. The union has called on the national government "to fulfil its responsibility to ensure Carbones del Cerrejón’s constitutional right to operate and Sintracarbón’s freedom of association and right to conduct collective bargaining and strike. These fundamental rights were violated by the terrorist attack on Sunday morning”.

The union has called on the competent authorities to guarantee security at the workplace and carry out an investigation.

Finally, the union said “the attack was prejudicial to the strike that began on 7 February after 97% of Sintracarbón members voted in favour of the stoppage. The strike has been conducted according to this trade union’s democratic and non-violent traditions and history of defending workers’ rights and the Guajira community”.

Sintracarbón said the strike has complied with the Constitution and the law and it hopes that an agreement will be reached very soon. Negotiations on the unions list of demands, notably health issues, resumed on Monday 25 February.

IndustriALL Global Union has been appalled at the intransigent position taken by Carbones. Cerrejón is the world's fourth-largest coal exporter and a joint venture between BHP Billiton, Anglo American and Xstrata. IndustriALL is appealing to all affiliates to support Sintracarbón in their negotiations and to provide international solidarity support by sending protest letters to Carbones del Cerrejón to meet the demands of Sintracarbón.

A further gravely serious development has been the numerous death threats received by Sintracarbón's leaders and members of its negotiating committee since bargaining began in November 2012. These issues will be taken up on 4 March by IndustriALL leadership in a meeting with the Colombian Ambassador in Geneva.