US passes Colombia trade deal as violence against unions continues

News from Colombia | on: Sunday, 16 October 2011
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UNI Global Union said that the votes in the US Congress to pass a trade deal with Colombia have sent the wrong message at the wrong time to the Colombian government.

Insufficient progress has been made to improve human and trade union rights on the ground to justify this decision. Over the past 25 years close to 3000 trade union activists have been murdered in Colombia. Fifty-one were killed in 2010 and recent reports show that 22 have been killed so far this year.

UNI research confirms that many companies in Colombia, including multinationals, classify employees as contractors or temporary workers to stop them from unionising. Workers are often told that they must sign statements in which they give up their right to join a union before they will be given an employment contract.

UNI Global Union General Secretary said UNI will continue to work with its Colombian trade unions and union allies around the world to fight for freedom of association for Colombian workers and to end impunity for those who attack and murder trade union activists.

UNI and its affiliates are working hard to change the culture of assassinations and threats toward unions in the country. We have met on a number of occasions with the Colombian Vice President to press our concerns and in November we are bringing our unions and key employers together to open a new chapter in labour relations. Our fear is that a trade deal done now takes away an incentive to build on this potential breakthrough.

A labour rights protection agreement has been signed by the United States and Colombian governments to prevent violence and protect rights. The agreement has been in place for just six months and must be applied to the letter.

Jennings said that UNI Global Union and UNI Europa will continue the pressure for no trade deal with the EU until Colombia makes good on its promises to protect union rights and end the culture of fear and violence that reigns in the country.

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