Social Justice and Democracy

Report vindicates Colombian unions in their struggle for basic workers’ rights

February 2, 2017

For years, Colombian unions have been sounding the alarm about workers’ and human rights abuses in their country. Now, a new report vindicates long-standing grievances about the violation of Colombian unions’ rights to organize and bargain collectively. The report was released by the National Administrative Office (NAO), in response to a joint submission from the Canadian Labour Congress and five Colombian labour partners concerning non-compliance under the Canada-Colombia Agreement on Labour Cooperation (CCOALC) under the Canada Colombia Free Trade Agreement.

“Union leaders and activists in Colombia have experienced significant danger in trying to exercise their basic rights. It is important to see this report finally acknowledge that prevailing context of anti-union hostility, intimidation and threats,” said Canadian Labour Congress President Hassan Yussuff.

The report found significant evidence of failure on the part of the Government of Colombia to comply with its obligations under the CCOALC and confirmed long-standing complaints of violence and intimidation used to restrict workers’ freedom of association and collective bargaining.

The CLC applauds the report’s recommendations to better fight abuses by calling for timely and efficient investigative practices and trials for perpetrators of violence against union leaders and activists. Significantly, the report calls for a critical and independent examination of the role of the Colombian riot police, the ESMAD, whose actions have been internationally criticized for the excessive use of force.

Other key recommendations in the report include measures to promote freedom of association and free collective bargaining; improved labour legislation; and stronger compliance with and enforcement of labour law, including empowering labour inspectors to eliminate misuse of labour intermediation.

Now that this report has confirmed the issues raised by Colombian and Canadian unions, the CLC is urging Labour Minister Patty Hajdu to act quickly and seek consultations with her Colombian counterpart.

“Colombian and Canadian unions are ready to be involved in the implementation of the report recommendations,” Yussuff said. “We look forward to working with both governments to address these issues and build stable and just labour relations in Colombia.”

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