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Unity and solidarity lead to USO victory in Colombia

27 September, 2013The Unión Obrera Sindical (USO), a Columbian trade union affiliated to IndustriALL, has just ended a 72 hour strike at the Cartagena refinery expansion project. The dispute ended on 23 September after a new collective agreement was signed.

After almost 2 months of negotiations between the North American multinational CB&I (Chicago Bridge and Iron) and the Union Sindical Obrera (USO), involving lengthy rounds of negotiations and mobilisations, union leaders persuaded the company to increase its offer from $92 million to $104.5 million to cover a pay increase for the two year period in which the collective agreement will be in force.

The agreement covers financial, trade union and political issues and includes substantial improvements in pay and benefits for employees. The agreement will also improve relations between the USO and CB&I Colombia.

CB&I is the main contractor at the Cartagena refinery expansion project, the most ambitious infrastructure initiative that Colombia has seen in recent years, with an investment of $3,892 million. The project includes 12 new plants, which will increase capacity and make the refinery the most competitive in the Caribbean basin.

The CB&I and Ecopetrol S.A. also agreed to pay the workers for the strike period, introduce a 45 minute meal break, provide Sodexo meal vouchers worth $200,000, pay a maximum of one hour per week overtime, extend benefits to employees of contractors and subcontractors and establish a formal relationship between the union and the project.

The USO explained that a commission will be set up to review the dismissals that occurred during the dispute, with a view to reinstating the dismissed workers.

The union stressed that the strike was peaceful and that workers followed union orientations at all times. IndustriALL thanks the national and international trade union movement for the support it has given to USO and congratulates the union for the unity and solidarity displayed during this dispute, which culminated in a victory for the workers.

“IndustriALL Global Union salutes this victory, which will certainly strengthen not only the USO but also the initiative to create a strong union in the mining and energy sector, with the merger of USO, SINTRAELERCOL and SINTRACARBON”, said Jorge Almeida, Regional Secretary for Latin America and the Caribbean.