US Unions Expose Colombian Government Misinformation

News from Colombia | on: Wednesday, 23 January 2008

In a damning report entitled "Workers' Rights, Violence and Impunity in Colombia", the AFL-CIO trade union federation in the United States claims that the Colombian Government is providing "highly inconsistent" information on the situation faced by trade unionists. The report says that despite claims to the contrary made by the Colombian regime abuses against trade unionists continue and that Colombia is still the most dangerous place in the world to be a union member.

The AFL-CIO produced their new investigation in response to an October 2007 report circulated by the Colombian Government concerning labour rights. "Unfortunately," begins the AFL-CIO document, "that report does not provide an objective and accurate analysis of labor rights and labor relations in Colombia. It fails to include serious criticisms by the International Labor Organization (ILO) and the Organization of American States (OAS) and ignores the findings of such highly credible human rights organizations as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International."

The union report goes on to slam the Colombian Government for providing misleading statistics about killings of trade unionists as per this extract:

"Regrettably, the government has publicly issued highly inconsistent figures regarding the total number of trade unionists murdered in any given year, which calls into question its seriousness about ending violence and impunity in the country. Indeed, a cursory review of news articles published in major U.S. newspapers revealed four different government figures for the total number of trade unionists murdered in 2006.

Houston Chronicle, June 24, 2007: 58 (citing the government)

Miami Herald, July 13, 2007: 25 (citing the government)

USA Today, Sept. 25, 2007: 65 (citing President Uribe)

The New Republic, Dec. 17, 2007: 17 (citing President Uribe)

The Ministry of Social Protection (MSP), the government agency responsible for labor policy in Colombia, published a report stating that 60 trade unionists were murdered in 2006. It appears that the government is either unable or unwilling to settle on the total number of trade unionists murdered in 2006. President Uribe's wildly inconsistent citations of such an important statistic undermine his attempts to portray his administration as deeply committed to addressing the root causes of the violence and the impunity."

Other issues covered include:

Crimes Against Trade Unionists:

"Since 1991, 2,283 Colombian trade unionists have been murdered. In the majority of cases where a motive for the murder can be identified, the unionist was murdered because of his or her trade union activity."

The combination of ongoing assassinations, death threats and violence against family members creates a climate of fear for trade unionists that makes it impossible for them to fully and confidently exercise their rights to organize, bargain collectively, go on strike or criticize the government.

"More trade unionists are killed in Colombia every year than in any other country."

Impunity:

"Impunity for the murder of trade unionists still remains at over 97%"

Labour Laws:

"The ILO has noted repeatedly that several of Colombia's labour laws are not in compliance with ILO core labour standards, which are considered the minimum set of right to be guaranteed by all countries. Further, the ILO's Committee on Freedom of Association has criticised the government for failing to enforce its own laws or international labour standards."

For the full report please visit: www.aflcio.org/issues/jobseconomy/globaleconomy/upload/colombia_briefing.pdf



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