The GMB, one of Britain’s major trade unions, passed a motion at its annual congress in Brighton condemning the murders of three unionised Nestle workers in Colombia. The motion, which was put forward on Wednesday 6 June, called on Nestle to recognise the SINALTRAINAL trade union which the three victims had belonged to and to ensure the security of all its workers. The killnigs also brought condemnation from Unite the Union, the largest trade union in Britain and Ireland.
The murders of Gilberto Espinosa on 13 May and Cristian Andres Lozano and Luis Eduardo Dominguez on 23 May came while SINALTRAINAL was involved in prolonged dispute with Nestle over worker rights at its plants in Colombia. The three men were killed close to the company plant in Bulagagrande, department of Valle del cauca, where they all worked.
The GMB’s national officer Steve Kemp said ‘Nestle’s silence over the most recent murders make them a willing accomplice. Our trade union brothers and sisters overseas are being threatened, harassed and in cases like this, murdered just for being a trade union member. If Nestle fails to act on this appalling situation and are being seen to do nothing when three trade unionists have been murdered, then their international reputation as a company will be inevitably diminished. Standing by and saying or doing nothing is simply not acceptable’.
The names of the three murder victims were on a list delivered to the SINALTRAINAL headquarters in the Colombian city of Cali. According to the union, it warned authorities over the threats to the men but little was done to investigate or to provide security.
GMB delegate Brian Golding, who works for Nestle UK and who brought the motion, said ‘the brutal murder of three Nestle trade unionists in May is truly shocking – all three were on a death list sent to the trade union. These incredibly brave men had been fighting Nestle for recognition for many years and the message is clear to Nestle, GMB demand they recognise the trade union and protect its workers and trade union representatives’.
Unite national officer Joe Clarke said ‘the continual murders of trade unionists within Nestle Colombia is deplorable and completely unacceptable when they are merely exercising a fundamental human right and calls upon Nestle to act immediately to use its considerable influence globally to prevent these occurrences forthwith as an absolute priority’.
SINALTRAINAL members have been violently targeted since the 1980s, with at least union members employed by Nestle murdered since then. In 2005, a Colombian judge ordered an investigation of Nestle’s links to paramilitary groups following the conviction of two paramilitaries for the murder of SINALTRAINAL member Luciano Romero. In 2012, the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights brought a prosecution case against Nestle in Switzerland over Luciano Romero’s murder but the case was eventually dismissed on statute of limitations.
Killings have continued since then, with the murders in 2013 of at least three more Nestle employees, and one of their wives, who belonged to SINALTRAINAL.
According to Colombia’s National Trade Union School, 143 trade unionists were murdered between 2012 and 2017. The country remains the most dangerous in the world for labour organising.