Politicians and trade unionists sign letter in press denouncing violence in Colombia

The following letter was published in The Guardian on Saturday 13 July 2019. In the letter, composed by JFC, more than 30 British and Irish politicians and trade unionists denounce the rise in violence against trade unionists and social activists in Colombia.

The letter responds to the International Trade Union Confederation’s Global Rights Index 2019, which was published last month, and also calls on Iván Duque’s government to fully implement the 2016 peace agreement.

Several of the signatories have visited Colombia with the JFC Peace Monitor or with previous JFC delegations.

A plea to the Colombian government to tackle civil society violence and honour the 2016 peace agreement

The International Trade Union Confederation’s latest report shows the shocking extent of violence against trade unionists in Colombia. Thirty-four trade unionists were murdered in 2018 – almost two-thirds of worldwide cases. This is more than double the previous year’s tally of 15 murders, which even then made Colombia the most dangerous country for labour organising.

The violence has continued into 2019, with 10 members of the Fensuagro agricultural union killed this year, and 30 since late 2016. Thirteen teachers were also killed in 2018 amid nationwide strike action over conditions and pay.

In 2018, Colombia was invited to join the OECD, formed of the world’s richest countries, even though it clearly violates established standards of labour rights and conditions.

Anti-union violence is a major contributor to Colombia’s abysmal labour rights record. Protecting trade unionists therefore will not only save lives but improve conditions for millions of working people.

Violence against civil society has continued despite the 2016 peace agreement between the state and the Farc to end decades of armed conflict. Colombia faces a human rights catastrophe, with more than 500 social activists and 135 Farc former guerrillas killed since the deal was signed. The UN says the agreement is vital for tackling violence, and reminded the government of its obligations to the peace process.

The international community must demand that Colombia guarantee security for trade unionists and activists. We also urge Colombia’s government to fully implement the peace agreement.

Senator Paul Gavan 
Sinn Fein
Dan Carden MP
Labour, Liverpool Walton
Jo Stevens MP
Labour, Cardiff Central
Tony Lloyd MP
Labour, Rochdale
Helen Goodman MP 
Labour, Bishop Auckland
Clive Efford MP
Labour, Eltham
Councillor Philippa Marsden
Labour, Caerphilly
Councillor Ian Byrne
Labour, Everton
Councillor Linda Perks
Labour, Greenwich
Steve Cavalier
Thompsons Solicitors chief executive
Frances O’Grady
TUC general secretary
Len McCluskey
Unite general secretary
Dave Prentis 
Unison general secretary
Kevin Callinan
Fórsa senior general secretary
Chris Keates 
NASUWT general secretary
Dave Ward
CWU general secretary
Claire Sullivan
CSP director of employment relations and union services
Tim Roache
GMB general secretary
Horace Trubridge
MU general secretary
Kevin Courtney
NEU joint general secretary
Grahame Smith
STUC general secretary
Mick Cash
RMT general secretary
Manuel Cortes
TSSA general secretary
Tony Woodhouse
Unite chair
Christine Blower
NEU international secretary
Paddy Lillis
Usdaw general secretary
Dave Todd
POA vice-chair
Joe Simpson
POA deputy general secretary
Mick Whelan
Aslef general secretary
Eoin Ronayne
Forsá Senior general secretary designate
Anne Speed
Unison Northern Ireland head of bargaining and representation
Carl Madan
CWU national executive council