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IndustriALL calls on Ecopetrol to reinstate dismissed USO leader

7 April, 2015Edwin Palma, USO vice president, was dismissed by the Colombian oil company Ecopetrol on 27 March after he used social networks to publicise the salaries of company managers. IndustriALL Global Union considers the dismissal to have been unfair and illegal and is calling for Palma’s immediate reinstatement.

The oil crisis has heightened tensions between Ecopetrol and the oil workers’ union USO. The situation took a new turn with the company’s dismissal of USO leader, Edwin Palma. IndustriALL’s general secretary, Jyrki Raina, has written to Ecopetrol president, Juan Carlos Echeverry, requesting the immediate reinstatement of Palma on the grounds that the company acted unfairly and illegally.

Crisis in the oil industry

Ecopetrol is suffering from a lack of investment because the Colombian government wants to make it 100% state-owned. Meanwhile, USO, which is affiliated to IndustriALL, is defending the rights of the more than 10,000 workers who have been dismissed since the oil crisis began.

After the government announced that it would not privatise Ecopetrol or sell any of its shares in the company and that it would prevent dismissals in the industry, Ecopetrol dismissed Edwin Palma on 27 March. It took the decision after Palma published on the social networks figures showing the salaries of company managers. These figures were already circulating in the media. The figures showed that some Ecopetrol managers are being paid a monthly salary of up to 60 million pesos, while thousands of Colombian families have to live on the monthly minimum wage of only 644,000 pesos.

Jyrki Raina has written to Ecopetrol to request the immediate reinstatement of Palma. The IndustriALL general secretary believes that the company’s measure is an attempt to silence the trade union leader’s voice after he denounced abuses and corruption among Ecopetrol’s senior managers. Raina also said that the dismissal violated national and international legislation, including International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention 87 on freedom of association and protection of the right to organize.

IndustriALL and its affiliates support workers in the mining and energy sectors in their fight to defend their rights and call for the reinstatement of Palma and an end to attacks on the basic labour rights of USO members.