CUT Says Wages Crisis Not Fixed By Small Minimum Wage Increase

News from Colombia | on: Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Colombian trade unions and the Confederation of Pensioners have condemned the Government’s 4% increase in the national minimum wage as inadequate to resolve the economic situation of most people. They also state that the wage negotiating commission with whom they tried to negotiate a larger increase had neither the political will, nor the tools with which to reach an agreement with them.

They point to the effects of increased inflation in cancelling out the wage increase. The 4% increase compares to an official inflation rate of 3.17%, and inflation of nearly 4% on the price of the basket of goods most commonly used by the poorest workers. Thus the effective increase is actually 0.42%.

The 4% hike does not apply to public sector workers who will have to make do with a 2.5% rise.

In Colombia, according to Public Services International (PSI), “Freedom of association and collective bargaining are limited by regulations.” Colombian unions criticise these regulations for preventing public sector workers from exercising their right to organisation and collective bargaining in violation of ILO Conventions 151 and 154. Regulations such as these, and the systematic repression suffered by the Colombian trade union movement, which has seen over 45 trade unionists killed in 2010 alone significantly weaken the bargaining power of unions as a whole.

The CUT, the main Colombian trade union federation, points to the measures taken by the government to deal with the damage caused by floods as showing the government’s ability to act decisively when it wishes, and also highlights that while the price rise for workers is minimal, (and non-existent for public sector workers) business is given tax exemptions, subsidies and other forms of government backing amounting to some 8 billion Colombian pesos.

The Colombian trade unions proposed had proposed a 12% increase in the minimum wage, and that charges for public services including transport be frozen, and that the prices of the goods in the ‘family basket’ be frozen also.

The 4% wage increase equates to 686 Pesos per day, or 23 pence, which the CUT says is grossly inadequate and will not help workers cover their basic needs.

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