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Hunger strike at Tenaris Colombia called off but struggle continues

5 July, 2018The vice-president of the Tenaris TuboCaribe union in Colombia (Sintratucar), Jairo del Río, has called off his hunger strike after being hospitalized, but the struggle against union persecution continues

The Sintratucar union leader began his hunger strike on 26 June in protest against anti-union persecution at Tenaris. At the same time, many members of the union organized a demonstration outside the company's plant on 1 July.

In the early morning of July 4, after he had been on hunger strike for over a week, del Río was taken to hospital suffering from severe chest pain, very low blood pressure and a sharp drop is in his blood sugar level. He was discharged from hospital and released into home care, as a result of which he called off his hunger strike. However, the union has confirmed that the fight to gain recognition of Sintratucar by Tenaris-TuboCaribe will continue.

"The effect of the strike has been positive because of the international solidarity we received and the fact that some senators are starting to take up the issue. What we are demanding is that our right to represent workers be reestablished without us being suspended. We will continue our protests until the company commits to work with us or until somebody can provide us with a guarantee that we can represent the workers," said the President of Sintratucar, Walberto Marrugo.

The workers claim that Tenaris TuboCaribe has not negotiated in good faith and has not signed a collective agreement. The company suspended seven trade union leaders for 15 days for having distributed flyers in which they explained the company and union position during the negotiations.  Moreover, Marrugo was also suspended for 42 days for having been part of the group that distributed the flyers.

IndustriALL general secretary, Valter Sanches, has written to Paolo Rocca, chief executive officer of the Techint group (to which Ternium and Tenaris belong), asking him to intervene and find a just solution to end the conflict at the steel plant of Tenaris TuboCaribe in Colombia and Ternium in Guatemala.

The Tenaris Ternium Workers' World Council sent a letter to the President of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos and unions in Canada, USA, Guatemala, Italy and Mexico also sent letters of solidarity.

"We express our full solidarity with the workers of Sintratucar, especially with its Vice-President Jairo del Río, for the bravery he showed when he went on a hunger strike. We urge Tenaris TuboCaribe to call a halt to its anti-union persecution and to promote a strong and robust dialogue which allows us to defend workers' demands".