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24 August, 2020Colombian union Sintracarbón has called for a strike at the Cerrejón mine, rejecting the new shift system which would eliminate 1,200 jobs, and the loss of benefits. It also denounces the increase in Covid-19 infections in the company.
After negotiations with the employer failed to reach an agreement, IndustriALL affiliate Sintracarbón asked their members if they wanted to go on strike or submit their dispute to arbitration. By 20 August, 99.03 per cent of Sintracarbón’s members voted in favour of a strike.
The union now has ten days to decide when to launch the strike. And Cerrejón still has the possibility to heed the union's call and to enter into negotiations to address the demands.
"The Sintratrabón negotiating committee calls on Cerrejón, the Ministry of Labour and the Congress of the Republic to help bring about negotiations on this labour dispute, affecting 12,000 workers, the community of La Guajira and the national economy. If Cerrejón and the three powerful multinationals that own this company fail to engage in negotiations, they will have to assume full and exclusive responsibility for the strike,”
the union said in a statement.
Cerrejón rejected Sintrabón's list of demands and put forward a counter-proposal, the effects of which would have been to cut back the benefits provided under the current collective agreement. In addition, the company decided to change the organisation of its shifts.
The union says that the changes are tantamount to introducing a death shift. It involves the elimination of 1,200 jobs in La Guajira, puts the health of workers at risk, and affects the quality of life of both families and communities in La Guajira.
The union is also demanding that Cerrejón introduce additional occupational safety measures to deal with the increasing number of new Covid-19 infections in the mine. According to Sintracarbón, there have been over 250 new cases* and two Cerrejón workers have died from the disease (one was a direct employee and the other a contractor).
IndustriALL’s BHP global union network issued a declaration of solidarity with the members of Sintracarbón in Cerrejón in Colombia, express their solidarity with Sintrabón workers and support of the decision to call a strike. The network calls on Cerrejón to respect the rights of worker, to maintain the benefits etablished in the collective agreement, and to esnure health and safety at the workplace. All companies have a responsibility to both shareholders and workers.
*This number is 300, as per 1 October 2020.