UNISON nominate Huber Ballesteros for Artur Svensonn award

Justice For Colombia News | on: Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Britain's second largest trade union UNISON has nominated Huber Ballesteros for the prestigious Artur Svensonn award. This comes just a short time since Huber was nominated by a number of national and international trade union bodies, as well as MPs and members of the House of Lords, for the Silver Rose award, awarded by a coalition of European NGOs. The Artur Svennson award is an international prize established by the Norweigan trade union 'Industri Energi' with the objective of recognising those who have stood out in the realm of trade union organising and defending trade union rights.

"Huber is one of Colombia’s most well respected trade union leaders", UNISON said in their nomination, "We believe that not only is there no better candidate for Arthur Svensson award, but that it would go some way to pressuring the authorities to respect his due process and his right to carry out his trade union activities free from persecution."

Vice-president FENSUAGRO and executive member of CUT

UNISON would like to nominate imprisoned Colombian trade union leader Huber Ballesteros for the Arthur Svensson award. Huber is one of Colombia’s most well respected trade union leaders, and has been imprisoned without trial since August 2013 accused of 'rebellion' and 'financing terrorism'. A member of the CUT Executive (Colombia's largest trade union confederation), he is also the vice-president of Fensuagro, the Colombian Agricultural Workers' Union, the 2nd largest union in the country. He has been instrumental in organising workers in the agro industry sector - one of the most difficult sectors to join a union in - as well as working to organise peasant farmers, indigenous and afro-Colombian communities in south western Colombia. Mr Ballesteros is also the National Organiser of the 'Patriotic March', the opposition movement launched in 2012 which groups over 2,000 trade unions, peasant, political and other organisations and which is leading the campaign for peace with social justice. With Huber's leadership they delivered a million-strong demonstration in support of the peace process in April 2013. At the time of his arrest (cynically just as he was about to travel to the UK to address the British TUC congress) he was one of the spokespersons of nationwide strikes taking place across Colombia in the agricultural, health, transport, energy sectors in opposition to President Santos' policies and particularly against the Free Trade Agreements. As a union we supported our fellow trade unionists during this strike, some in the same sector as our own members, which saw a brutal and violent response from the authorities. UNISON was involved in the 13,000 petition delivered to the Colombian government last November calling for Huber’s release. We know he continues to be committed to his union even though he is behind bars, currently writing an organising manual for activists and running workshops for fellow prisoners. More recently we worked with Justice for Colombia and Labour Start to petition the Colombian attorney general on Human Rights Day. 5,000 people signed the petition in less than 24 hours. At our annual conference in June 2014, we had a message direct from Huber shown to all our delegates and held a photo action calling for his freedom as we believe him to be a human and trade union rights defender. We believe that not only is there no better candidate for Arthur Svensson award, but that it would go some way to pressuring the authorities to respect his due process and his right to carry out his trade union activities free from persecution.



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