Trade unionist Lina Montilla Díaz promotes peace and worker rights at union conferences

JFC brought Colombian trade unionist Lina Montilla Díaz to England over 9-20 June so that she could take part in annual conferences of the GMB, the BFAWU and UNISON.

Lina is an executive committee member at Colombia’s largest trade union federation, the CUT. She is also the CUT’s Director of Young Workers and the Eradication of Child Labour. Her visit was organised to build international solidarity and raise awareness around the current situation in Colombia, as the progressive Petro government attempts to implement expansive social reforms and advance peace via dialogue processes with armed groups. Visits like this form a core aspect of unions’ international campaign work on Colombia.

While in London, she met with the TUC’s international department to discuss advances and challenges in the Colombian government’s labour reform bill that aims to improve rights and conditions for millions of working people in a country long characterised by endemic labour abuses.

At the GMB conference in Bournemouth, Lina spoke at a Justice for Colombia fringe and also addressed conference as a keynote speaker. She urged delegates to continue supporting the Colombian government’s attempts to pass its social reforms, which face strong conservative opposition in congress, and the Total Peace initiative that seeks to curtail alarming violence that claims the lives of trade unionists, social activists and former guerrillas on a regular basis. The GMB also passed a motion in support of Colombian women activists and trade unionists.

Lina also travelled to the BFAWU conference in Stone, Staffordshire, to address delegates there on the main issues facing food sector workers in Colombia, and to encourage them to support the work of JFC. She met with general secretary Sarah Woolley, president Ian Hodgson and several lay members, who told Lina that the union was committed to supporting JFC’s campaign work.

In Brighton, Lina attended UNISON’s annual Local Government Conference (LGC) and National Delegate Conference (NDC), where she spoke at a number of important events. She was invited to address the main hall at the LGC, highlighting that a number of activists killed in Colombia also worked in local authorities. Lina was a main speaker at the International Rally, alongside speakers from Turkey and Hong Kong, the Young Members’ Caucus, a JFC fringe meeting and a special international solidarity event, alongside Cuban speakers, organised by the UNISON North West region.

Throughout her visit, Lina was given an extremely warm welcome by all those who met her and listened to her presentations. Her visit again demonstrates the strong support for Colombian trade unionism and peace that exists throughout the trade union movement in Britain and Ireland. JFC would like to thank everyone who took the time to meet Lina and who helped make her visit so successful.