Unite the Union has written to the Colombian embassies in the UK and Ireland following the latest murder of a member of its partner, the FENSUAGRO rural workers union. José Euclides Gonzáles Marín was killed on 31 January in Caloto in the southern region of Cauca. He is around the 40th FENSUAGRO trade unionist killed since the 2016 peace agreement.
In the letter, Unite general secretary Sharon Graham raises concern over January’s car bomb attack on regional offices of Colombia’s largest trade union confederation, the CUT, in Arauca, eastern Colombia. She also calls on the Colombian government to ensure security for trade unionists and to fully investigate José’s murder.
Unite has a long history of working with Justice with Colombia in support of trade unionism, human rights and peace in Colombia. Unite and FENSUAGRO members have met in Colombia and the UK, with the two unions officially linked through the international trade union organisation Workers Uniting. Unite has denounced violence against trade unionists on several previous occasions, while at its Policy Conference last October it passed a motion calling for greater security for FENSUAGRO members.
Read Unite’s letter to the Colombian embassies below.
Minister Counsellor Pedro López, Chargé d’Affaires
Embassy of Colombia
3 Hans Crescent
London SW1X 0LN
Ambassador Patricia Cortés Ortiz
Embassy of Colombia
19 Raglan Road
3 February 2022
Dear Ambassador Cortés and Minister Counsellor López,
Unite the Union condemns in the maximum possible terms the murder of trade unionist José Euclides González Marín on 31 January 2022. José was a member of Unite’s sister trade union, Fensuagro, whose members continue to experience appalling levels of violence despite the Colombian government’s long awareness of the situation facing trade unionists in the country.
Unite represents over 1.4 million workers in Britain and Ireland and is committed to campaigning for the rights and security of Colombian trade unionists, as well as for full implementation of the peace agreement of 2016, through Justice for Colombia. Unite and Fensuagro partner officially through the international labour organisation Workers Uniting and members of the unions have met on several occasions in Colombia, Britain and Ireland.
According to the International Trade Union Confederation, 22 trade unionists were killed in Colombia between March 2020 and April 2021, a number of whom were affiliated to Fensuagro. This continues historic levels of shocking violence against organised labour, with research by the National Trade Union School (Escuela Nacional Sindical, ENS) having found that 3,240 trade unionists were murdered in Colombia from 1971 to 2018. It is clear that anti- trade union violence persists today.
Furthermore, we are deeply alarmed by the car bomb attack on a building containing regional offices of the CUT trade union confederation in Saravena, Arauca, on 19 January. CUT executive committee members have also received numerous threats in the past year. Given that the ITUC repeatedly places Colombia among the world’s ten worst countries for overall labour rights, protecting and strengthening trade unionism is essential for millions of Colombian workers to attain fairer conditions.
In a letter to Colombia’s Presidential Commissioner for Human Rights and International Affairs, dated 14 September 2021, I urged the Colombian government ‘to provide all necessary resources for thorough investigations into apprehending the intellectual authors and material perpetrators’ of killings and other acts of aggression against trade unionists. I reiterate this call and also ask what measures your government is taking to ensure that all Colombian trade unionists are able to exercise their democratic rights freely and securely.
Finally, on behalf of Unite members, I offer our condolences to our colleagues in Fensuagro and to José’s bereaved family.
General Secretary, Unite the Union