5 – No guarantee of rights
The ITUC Global Rights Index


The ITUC affiliates in Colombia are the Central Unitaria de Trabajadores (CUT) and the Confederación de Trabajadores de Colombia (CTC).

Colombia ratified Convention No. 87 on Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise (1948) in 1976 and Convention No. 98 on the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining (1949) in 1976.

In practice

Browse by:

Fresenius union leaders receive death threats15-02-2022

For many years, Colombia has been recognised as one of the most dangerous countries in the world for activists and trade unionists. The Colombian state confirms that 145 social movement leaders were murdered in 2021 alone.
When workers at the German multinational Fresenius in Colombia organised trade unions and began negotiations, at least two of their elected leaders were threatened with death.
Julian Parra and Claudia López are both Quirónsalud (a Fresenius subsidiary) workers who received death threats. Claudia reported the details of these threats to local police. Julian was forced to flee Colombia. They have both requested that their German employer publicly denounce these and all similar threats. Fresenius and Quirónsalud have ignored or denied repeated official requests made in Colombia, Spain and Germany.
The Fresenius Global Union Alliance has launched a global solidarity campaign.

SINTCAFROMAYO leader Yordan Tovar murdered16-01-2020

Yordan Tovar, head of the cross-border farm labourers’ union of Putumayo, SINTCAFROMAYO (Sindicato de Trabajadores Campesinos Fronterizos del Putumayo), affiliated to agricultural union federation FENSUAGRO, was murdered on Thursday 16 January in the late afternoon in Teteyé in the municipality of Puerto Asís.
According to witnesses of the crime, Tovar was in the union’s community store when armed men arrived on the scene and fired several shots.

Systematic violations of trade unionists’ right to life and integrity in 201930-12-2019

During 2019, CUT Colombia reported 12 murders, 198 death threats, 11 acts of intimidation, four attempted murders and one forced disappearance, amounting to a total of 226 acts of violence directly targeting workers and union leaders.
On 29 January, for example, Dilio Corpuz Guetio, an active member of the grassroots peasants’ association ASOASOCORDILLERA, affiliated to agricultural union federation FENSUAGRO, was murdered. He was travelling by motorbike with his sister on a road between rural settlements when they were hit by a vehicle from which several armed men emerged and shot Corpuz Guetio in the head several times, killing him instantly. Corpuz Guetio was an active member of the local district committee where he was carrying out checks on the substitution of illicit crops in the area. The representatives and members of these organisations believe the murder was motivated by his work as a defender of the land and the local communities.
The CUT has reported that the sectors hardest hit by this violence are the education, transport, mining and energy sectors. Most of the crimes were committed by paramilitary forces or hired thugs.
It should be noted that most of these crimes have not been successfully prosecuted, with the national government is still failing to providing the resources required for the conduct of timely and conclusive investigations and to bring those responsible to justice. In short, the framework for protecting the lives of trade unionists and their families remains inadequate, placing them in a constant state of threat.

Huawei implements strategies to dismiss unionised workers19-12-2019

Following the request submitted by Huawei to the Labour Ministry to approve the dismissal of 289 workers and the subsequent authorisation received to dismiss 61 of them, ICT workers’ union UNITRATEL (Unión Sindical de Trabajadores de las Tecnologías de la Información y Comunicación, Actividades Conexas y Complementarias) appealed against the decision, calling on the ministry to reconsider the authorisation given for the mass dismissals and to ensure respect for due process as well as measures to remedy the labour irregularities at the company.

Impunity poses an obstacle to freedom of association in Magdalena Medio 23-11-2019

Agriculture union SINTRAINAGRO (Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Industria Agropecuaria) has been engaged in a strategy to promote the formalisation of contract workers at agri-food company Agrounión. Its efforts have been met with retaliation such as the collective dismissal of all contract workers and a significant increase in business relations with external suppliers. Managers have also used legal strategies to block negotiations, such as claims of alleged irregularities in the presentation of collective bargaining proposals.
The union has filed complaints with the Public Prosecutor’s Office and the Ombudsman’s Office regarding the violations of human and labour rights, but no remedy is in sight. The authorities’ failure to act feeds the perception that the law and the constitution offer no real protection and that those joining a union risk losing their jobs.

UN expresses concern over the measures taken by the authorities before general strike action21-11-2019

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Colombia expressed concern about the measures taken by the authorities before the general strike organised on 21 November 2019 against government policies.

In this regard, the UN representation referred to the issue of several decrees, circulars and instructions that contemplate the possibility that mayors and governors implement measures such as the declaration of curfews, and military support for public order control in the framework of the day of protest.

The UN agency recalled that States should limit and condition the use of military forces to control internal disturbances to the maximum, since training, equipment, and perspectives of a military nature are not adequate to guarantee the protection and control of civilians, training that is typical of police authorities.

The limits and conditions for the intervention of military forces, according to international standards, are as follows: that this must be temporary, restricted, subordinated and supervised by civil authorities and regulated by means of protocols on the use of force, it stressed.

The UN Office said that peaceful protest is a human right whose exercise strengthens democracy. It urged those who participate in the marches to exercise their rights responsibly, in accordance with the rights to peaceful assembly, freedom of expression and freedom of association. The Office also explained that it has followed, with concern, the persistent messages of unidentified origin that have been published on social networks and in the media that stigmatise social protest, and others that call for the use of violence against the mobilisations of multiple sectors of society.

In this context of growing tension, the UN has received information on 27 raids in Bogotá, five in Cali and four in Medellín of homes and offices, some of them against civil society organisations and alternative media.

These raids apparently stem from different investigations, open on different dates, with respect to events that occurred at different times, and whose order of execution coincides 48 hours before the start of the marches, it noted.

Violations of social and labour organisations’ right to freedom of assembly19-11-2019

The CUT issued a statement rejecting the police raids ordered on social and labour organisations in Bogota, Cali and Medellin, days before the national strike announced for 21 November. The CUT spoke out following the strong-arm measures taken by the public authorities, which violate the right to peaceful protest protected by the Colombian constitution.

Protest against unfair dismissals at Port of Cartagena30-10-2019

Transport union SNTT (Sindicato Nacional del Transporte) denounced the unfair dismissal of 11 technicians in charge of the security camera system at the port. The Cartagena port company said the dismissals were based on the neglect and damage to the security equipment. This is, however, largely beyond the employees’ control and should not affect their performance appraisals.

Trade union leaders’ right to life threatened28-10-2019

Leaders of SINTRABRINKS (Sindicato de Trabajadores de Brinks) received death threats directed at themselves and their families from the illegal armed group Águilas Negras (Black Eagles). The threats came following the initiatives taken by the union to improve working conditions at the company. The general secretary of UNI Global Union announced that the international trade union movement will continue to work to ensure respect for human and trade union rights, and urged the Colombian labour minister to take measures to ensure that trade union rights could be exercised without fear in the workplace.

Persecution of the newly established union at Banco Agrario 26-10-2019

After 20 years of attempts to establish a trade union for employees at Banco Agrario, SINTRABANAGRARIO (Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores del Banco Agrario) was finally founded in October 2019 with the participation of 34 employees from the Santander region, who submitted a set of demands. The bank reacted by dismissing several of the founding members and presenting a request for the cancellation of the organisation’s legal status. The newly-formed union announced that it was determined to remain in operation, especially in light of the plans to restructure the bank and the threat this represents for the jobs of some 1,500 workers.

Mass dismissals at Coca Cola Bucaramanga bottling plant07-10-2019

Members of agri-food union SINALTRAINAL (Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores del Sistema Agroalimentario) chained themselves up in front of the Coca Cola Bucaramanga bottling plant in protest against the collective dismissal of 60 workers with protection rights as trade unionists, which the company is not at liberty to ignore. Only a judge has the power to authorise the termination of employment contracts protected by these safeguards. The union also called on the bottling company to respond to the collective bargaining proposals and to put an end to its criminalisation of protest and to the intimidation suffered by the workers.

Unfair dismissals and trade union rights violations at Ross Group24-09-2019

SINTRAVIDRICOL (Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores del Vidrio y Afines) denounced Moldes Medellín and Andes Cast Metals, subsidiaries, based in Antioquia, of the multinational Ross Group, for unfairly dismissing 20 workers and disguising many other dismissals as voluntary redundancies. The union accused the multinational of repeated anti-union and anti-worker practices, which have continued despite the workers’ attempts to remedy the situation, leading the organisation to take legal action in a bid to protect its members.

Oil workers’ union denounces anti-union dismissals 10-09-2019

In an open letter to Colombian oil company ECOPETROL, the executive board of the USO (Union Sindical Obrera de la Industrial del Petróleo) expressed its disagreement with the decision to dismiss Ariel Corzo, a member of the USO national executive, for the second time in less than eight months. The union said the company was in breach of the labour law and had failed to comply with court rulings expressly prohibiting such a decision. It was on these grounds that the oil workers’ union decided to file a complaint against ECOPETROL with the Labour Ministry.

Anti-union practices denounced at NUTRESA trading company11-05-2019

Members of agri-food union SINALTRAINAL (Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores del Sistema Agroalimentario) condemned NUTRESA’s suspension of union leaders’ contracts, as well as the harassment suffered by an intern from the National Training Service (SENA) and the various problems faced by cocoa and coffee growers as a result of the company’s unfair contracts with farmers in the municipality of Girón. SINALTRAINAL responded by holding a day of protest calling for corporate solutions that would promote the protection of workers and ensure an end to the harassment faced by women and the persecution faced by trade unionists.

Union leaders’ right to life, freedom and integrity at risk 11-05-2019

On 11 May, Igor Kareld Díaz, national leader of coal industry workers’ union Sintracarbón (Sindicato de Trabajadores de la Industria del Carbón), and Juan Carlos Rojas, Dairo Mosquera, Gustavo Benjumea and Jairo Córdoba, members of the mining and energy workers’ union Sintramienergética (Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Industria Minera, Petroquímica, Agrocombustibles y Energética), received death threats via social media signed by the Águilas Negras (Black Eagles).
The group threatened to kill the leaders for being “guerrillas disguised as workers” and accused them of wanting to impose a new form of socialism on Colombia. It gave them 48 hours to leave the country or “suffer the consequences”. The threats came after an official meeting held by the Dutch embassy and the Dutch union centre CNV on 6 May and attended by a group of Dutch parliamentarians, trade union and community leaders and senior executives of the multinationals Prodeco-Glencore, Cerrejon and Drummond. The parliamentarians wanted to learn more about the coal industry and its workers in Colombia.
It is no coincidence that three of the union leaders who received death threats were taking part in the collective bargaining negotiations with Drummond.
Oil workers’ union USO, electricity workers’ union Sintraelecol and Sintracarbón – all IndustriALL affiliates – issued a statement condemning the threats. They said that such threats were part of a systematic policy to eliminate the opposition and union leaders in Colombia, pointing out that there had been 262 assassinations since Iván Duque took office as president. They condemned the government for its indifference, for taking no protective or preventive measures and for failing to bring those responsible to justice.

Increase in level of violence against trade unionists during 2018 10-12-2018

Between 1 January and 30 November 2018, 194 attacks were recorded on the lives, freedoms and physical integrity of trade unionists in Colombia; 82% of these attacks were suffered by union leaders. The cases registered included 28 murders, three forced disappearances, seven attempted murders, one case of torture, 146 threats, two forced displacements, six cases of harassment targeting union leaders and one illegal raid. According to the information available, in 52.06% of the cases the perpetrators were paramilitaries, in 41.7% the perpetrators were not identified or mentioned, and the remaining 6.24% were perpetrated by agents of the state and the guerrilla. In most cases, the reasons behind the anti-union violence continue to be linked to the social role played by the trade union movement in processes such as the defence of individual and collective human and labour rights and peace building at local level. An increase was also experienced in the attacks on trade union organisations as a collective (violence indiscriminately targeting the union movement): the number of cases rose from nine in the year 2017 to 36 in 2018. Colombia has a deep-rooted history of anti-union violence. More than 14,804 violations were registered against trade unionists between 1973 and 2018, including 3,180 murders and 242 forced disappearances.

Anti-union persecution within private health care group SALUDCOOP19-11-2018

Between September and the end of 2018, ESIMED, a private company providing health care services, stopped workers employed at its head office in the city of Ibague, department of Tolima, from returning to their posts, leaving them with unpaid wages and benefits. The trade union representing workers in the sector, SINTRASALUDCOL, called on its members to mobilise, across the country, to protest against the progressive weakening of the companies within the SaludCoop group following the intervention of the state in 2011. The current difficulties are a result of the government’s failure to supervise the public health resources managed by the group and the lack of transparency in the subsequent restructuring process, the group’s liquidation and the sale of the companies. The companies within the group have been applying a policy of anti-union persecution since the start of this process and have systematically refused to set up consultations to ensure respect for the workers’ labour and trade union rights and to identify the best way of ensuring health care services for thousands of people across the country.

Dismissals and anti-union policy targeting SINTRACARCOL members 09-10-2018

During 2018, Cartón de Colombia S.A., a subsidiary of multinational Smurfit Kappa, refused to comply with the collective bargaining agreements and waged a fierce anti-union campaign, placing constant pressure on the workers to stop them from joining the trade union of their choosing. In addition, the management systematically refused to give members union leave to attend to trade union matters and meetings, unfairly dismissed union leaders, offered them benefits in exchange for information or money to leave the union, and took legal action against the organisation. On 8 October 2018, the union staged a week of protests in front of the company’s premises in Medellín, in the department of Antioquia. The company has nonetheless continued with its policy of persecution.

Avianca pilots dismissed20-09-2018

In July 2018, the Supreme Court of Justice, contravening ILO Convention 87 and disregarding the comments of the ILO Committee of Experts, upheld the ruling that the strike at private airline company Avianca was illegal, and authorised the dismissal of 107 pilots, including executive members of the Colombian civil aviation pilots’ union, ACDAC. The union had launched a 51-day strike in September to press for better pay and conditions, decent working hours and other measures to improve air safety standards. On 20 September 2017, the company cut off all negotiations with the union and asked the Labour Ministry to set up compulsory arbitration. On 6 October 2017, the High Court of Bogota, which should not have intervened until the strike had reached the 60-day mark, declared the action illegal on the grounds that air transport is an essential public service.

Anti-union campaign still underway at Glencore in Colombia02-08-2018

Coal transportation and mining multinational Glencore continued with its policy of violating environmental, labour and trade union rights and standards in Colombia. The multinational has five different business units through which its Colombian subsidiary, Prodeco, manages operations at two coal mines, a railway and a port terminal. The workers, members of coal workers’ union Sintracarbón, denounced the abuses they are faced with at the various mines, each of which has its own terms and conditions of employment, and the fact that the union is unable to hold joint negotiations as a representative of employees of one and the same company. This segmentation of the business makes it much more difficult for the trade union to resolve problems and to identify a negotiating partner with decision-making powers. In addition, the company maintained its policy, during 2018, of stopping workers from joining the trade union of their own choosing and using disciplinary proceedings against union members and leaders to undermine membership. Glencore has succeeded in persuading many workers to leave the union through a combination of threats and incentives. The government is well aware of the situation. Prodeco has had to pay almost US$500,000 in fines for its abusive labour practices over recent years and yet its attitude to workers’ rights remains unchanged.

Sociedad Portuaria Barranquilla withholds union dues 31-12-2017

The collective agreement applies to all workers at the Sociedad Portuaria Barranquilla, as more than a third of the workers at the company are members of the union. The company does not, however, transfer the dues of those benefitting from the agreement to the union, despite being required to do so under Colombian law (Article 471 of the Substantive Labour Code, Article 69, Law 50 of 1990).

Illegal withholding of trade union quotas at Movilizamos S.A. 31-12-2017

Movilizamos S.A. withholds the amounts payable to the SNTT in terms of the union dues deducted from its members wages. In 2017, the trade union organisation requested detailed information from the company regarding the sum of the amounts deducted, but the company neither supplied the information requested nor transferred the union dues owed.

Colombian employers manipulate trade union elections 31-12-2017

Employers interfered in unionised workers’ freedom to elect the representatives of their choice during 2017. Examples include the formation of company-controlled unions, with members of such organisations occupying the place that should be filled by the workers in representative structures. Employers managed to interfere, in many cases, in the election of the committees in charge of preventing workplace harassment (Resolution 652 of 2012), for example, or the Joint Health and Safety Committee, responsible for overseeing and controlling occupational risks, to prevent accidents at work and occupational diseases.

Favouritism towards certain trade unions in Colombian companies 31-12-2017

At certain public and private sector companies with more than one trade union, clear favouritism is shown towards the unions that do not oppose their decisions or that the employers have an interest in promoting in order to discourage affiliation with independent organisations.
The following notable examples were seen during 2017:
Three trade union organisations, SINTRAMIA, OTRAMIC and ASEFINCO coexist at microfinance company Bancamía. The employer favours SINTRAMIA, awarding benefits to the members of this union, without having a collective agreement, and granting trade union leave with greater ease than to the representatives of the other two unions. The company also discriminates against ASEFINCO members in terms of pay and conditions and subjects them to disciplinary procedures leading to unjustified sanctions.
The Sociedad Portuaria Buenaventura offers better working conditions and trade union benefits to members of the Unión Portuaria and discriminates against SNTT members.
At ALPINA S.A., the management systematically refused to approve SINTRALAB members’ trade union leave during 2017, arguing that it should be requested through the other union at the company, SINTRALPINA.

Anti-union practice at Indupalma 31-12-2017

Efforts were made during 2017 to prohibit and control the trade union activities of members of the UGTTA (Unión General de Trabajadores Tercerizados de la Agroindustria) at Industrial Agraria La Palma Limitada (Indupalma), which made public statements referring to their actions as “illegal and illegitimate”. The employer prohibited, for example, the union members from voting on strike action and stopped them from accessing the company’s offices to carryout their trade union activities.

The company also favoured the trade union organisation representing workers hired directly, refusing to acknowledge the existence of the UGTTA and its connection with the company.

Unionised workers face harassment and discrimination at certain companies 31-12-2017

SINTRACHANEME union members at CHM Minería are given heavy tasks despite having medical restrictions, leading to a worsening of their health, denounced the trade union during 2017. In addition, unionised workers are verbally attacked by their immediate superiors, who make it clear that they will not be respected until they leave the union.
At Recaudo Bogotá, SINTRARECAUDO members are constantly faced with disciplinary action, without respect for due process, which led to sanctions and dismissals throughout 2017. The unionised workers at the company are harassed and forced to carry out duties that do not correspond to their posts.
At DHL Zona Franca, in the city of Bogotá, the few employees affiliated to transport union SNTT – delivery drivers – are given longer delivery routes than the other DHL employees, as well as delivery quotas that exceed the limit established by the company. They are also constantly faced with disciplinary action, sanctions and dismissals.
During 2017, SNTT members at SMITCO in the city of Santa Marta, were constantly faced with disciplinary action without real cause or due process, leading to sanctions and dismissals. A number of unionised workers accumulated as many as five sanctions for several days.
Members of the Buenaventura branch of the SNTT suffered pay discrimination at CIAMSA, Azúcares Y Mieles S.A., which did not give them the same wage increase as its other employees. The company fired four workers in 2017, one of whom was a member of the grievance committee.
Throughout 2017, BIMBO de Colombia granted better pay and conditions to non-unionised workers, by means of a collective pact. The unionised workers at the company suffer harassment in the form of unjustified warnings and disciplinary procedures, leading to sanction and dismissals. They are also discriminated against when it comes to accessing housing related benefits.

Anti-union dismissals to prevent formation of trade unions 31-12-2017

It is common practice in Colombia for companies to respond to moves to form a union with a refusal to acknowledge the formal notice informing them of its establishment and the dismissal of unionised workers, to destabilize the organisation and warn non-unionised workers of the reprisals the company can take if they decide to join.

This was the case at Buenaventura Medio Ambiente, where the company responded to the creation of a union, SINTRABMA, by instantly dismissing three members of its executive. The number of dismissals at the company rose to nine in 2017.

Openly anti-union attitude at Profamilia 30-12-2017

Profamilia unilaterally established a “benefits plan”, applicable during 2017, providing better conditions than those set out in the collective agreement and thus discriminating against unionised workers. The same company gives personnel managers training on how to discourage membership of the trade union organisation, and unionised workers are offered money to leave the union.

Workplace harassment is commonplace and unionised workers are unfairly dismissed. Such was the case for the administrator of the Profamilia clinic in Bogotá, who joined the trade union in 2017. On the very same day the employer received notification that the worker had joined the trade union organisation, disciplinary action was taken against him with a view to terminating his employment contract. Despite his request for the evidence Profamila had against him and a period of time to defend himself, he was suspended with pay and subsequently fired a month later, purportedly on fair grounds.

Armed attack on ADIDA leader21-12-2017

Omar Arango Jiménez, executive member of the Asociación de Institutores de Antioquia (ADIDA), was the victim of an armed attacked on 21 December 2017. The incident took place whilst he was at an activity with several members of the organisation. Unknown assailants approached the trade union leader, stole his mobile phone and fired shots at him but, fortunately, did not succeed in hitting their target.

SIMANA member Orlando de Jesús Caicedo Madroñero murdered17-11-2017

Orlando de Jesús Caicedo Madroñero worked as a teacher at El Cancino education centre and had been a member of the teachers’ union of Nariño, SIMANA, for 23 years. The teacher, who had taken part in the Movimiento de Integración Regional (MIR) and various activities organised by trade union and campesino organisations, was killed by armed men on motorbikes, on 17 November 2017, in the municipality of Samaniego, in Nariño.

José Luis López Vela, head of the UTP, murdered 14-11-2017

José Luis López Vela, an executive member of prison workers’ union UTP (Unión de Trabajadores Penitenciarios), was murdered on 14 November 2017 on leaving the municipal jail of Jamundí. He was approached and killed by armed individuals in the Las Veraneras area of the El Guabal settlement.

Attempt on life of SINTRAINAGRO leader 30-10-2017

Alfonso Viafara Caicedo, president of the Pradera branch of agricultural workers’ union SINTRAINAGRO (Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Industria Agropecuaria), received threats, via his mobile phone, on 30 October 2017. On 10 November of the same year, six shots were fired at his house whilst the union leader was at home with his family.

Repression and fines following taxi drivers’ stoppage 23-10-2017

On 23 October 2017, taxi drivers affiliated to the Sindicato Nacional de Taxistas y Conductores del Servicio Público de Transporte (SINALTAX-Bogotá) called a stoppage. The traffic authorities decided, in reprisal, to impose a large number of fines (110 in total) on the taxi drivers who took part in the protest, for blocking the city’s roads. Riot police used disproportionate force on several occasions during the stoppage, trying to disperse the taxi drivers on Avenida de las Américas.

Utraclaro president threatened 20-10-2017

Yuli Higuera, president of the Sindicato de los Trabajadores de Claro y del Sector de las TIC (Utraclaro), received a threat in the form of a flower arrangement and a pamphlet on 20 October 2017 in Bogotá. The threat came following complaints lodged regarding labour and trade union rights violations, and was directed at all the union’s executive members and their families.

Assassination attempt against SUTIMAC leader 20-10-2017

Omar Romero Díaz, leader of building materials workers’ union SUTIMAC (Sindicato Unitario de Trabajadores de la Industria de Materiales para Construcción) was the victim of an attempt on his life on 20 October 2017, in the municipality of Yumbo, in Valle. Two men on a motorbike approached the trade unionist’s vehicle and shot at him as he was making his way home. He escaped the attack unharmed thanks to the fast and timely reaction of one of his bodyguards.

Threats against SINTRAUNICOL members 13-10-2017

El 13 October 2017, Gabriel Becerra, Nixon Padilla and Andrés Álvarez, members of the university workers’ union SINTRAUNICOL (Sindicato de Trabajadores y Empleados Universitarios de Colombia) at the Cooperative University of Colombia, based in Bogotá, were threatened along with other social leaders, via a pamphlet of the Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia.

Death threat and armed attack against USO leader 11-10-2017

Luis Alberto Galvis Mart, a leader of the Unión Sindical Obrera (USO), was the victim of an armed attack on 11 October 2017. An individual damaged the tires of his vehicle with a sharp object and broke the rear-view mirror as well as a window of the house where the trade union leader was staying. The police caught the assailant, who directed threats at the union leader and his brother-in-law, saying that he would kill the two of them for free.

Labour Ministry refuses to register SNTT executive 27-09-2017

The regional office of the Labour Ministry in Funza refused to register the national executive of transport workers’ union SNTT (Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de Rama y Servicios de la Industria del Transporte de Colombia), following its election on 27 September 2017, on the pretext, presented by Labour inspector Andrea Isabel Carillo Blanco, that only ten members could be registered.

The trade union filed action for the protection of its rights and the inspector was obliged, by a court order, to register the 18 members elected. A disciplinary proceeding was also ordered against the inspector for interfering with the right to freedom of association.

ASTRACAN leader murdered 23-09-2017

On 23 September 2017, whilst Pedro Emilio Guerra, president of the Asociación de Trabajadores Campesinos de Nariño (ASTRACAN), affiliated to FENSUAGRO, was on the main square in the municipality of Peñol, in Nariño, organising with some of the leaders from the region, an unknown individual approached him and publically threatened him.

Trade unionists harassed and leaders threatened after filing complaint30-08-2017

The Sindicato de Trabajadores de la Fundación sin ánimo de lucro Pascual Bravo (SINTRAPLÚS) took an interest in overseeing public transport contracting processes and resources and, having identified a number of irregularities, filed the relevant complaints, some in conjunction with the Sindicato de Trabajadores y Empleados del Sistema de Transporte del Valle de Aburra (SINTRAMETRO). The workers have since then been victims of anti-union persecution and harassment, and during June and August 2017, threats were made against the union’s president, John Fredy Pulgarín, and another member of the executive, John Fredy Zabala.

Threats against president of SINTRACOL in Apartadó 16-08-2017

Richard Monterroza, president of agribusiness workers’ union SINTRACOL (Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Agroindustria de Colombia), an affiliate of FENSUAGRO, headquartered in the Apartadó subregion of Urabá Antioqueño, received threats from paramilitary groups in May and August 2017.

Teacher affiliated to ASOINCA murdered 15-08-2017

Juan José Argumero Campo, teacher, educator and activist affiliated to the Asociación de Institutores y Trabajadores de la Educación del Cauca (ASOINCA), was murdered on 15 August 2017 by unknown assailants who intercepted him on his way to the Indígena education institute on the Quintana reservation where he worked, north of the city of Popayán.

ASINTRACAMPIC member Fernando Asprilla murdered 09-08-2017

On 9 August 2017, Fernando Asprilla, a member of the Asociación de Trabajadores Campesinos de Piamonte Cauca (ASINTRACAMPIC), affiliated to FENSUAGRO, was murdered in the municipality of Piamonte, in Cauca. The campesino and union leader was a former president of the Communal Council of Vereda La Tigrera, and was a coordinator and representative of the social and political movement Marcha Patriótica.

ASTRACAN member Nidio Dávila murdered 06-08-2017

On 6 August 2017, Nidio Dávila, who was a campesino leader, human rights defender and a member of the Rosario branch of the rural workers’ union ASTRACAN, affiliated to FENSUAGRO, was murdered in the municipality of El Rosario, in Nariño. Threats were also made against anyone supporting and continuing to work towards the voluntary substitution of illicit crops in the municipality, as part of the measures being taken to implement the agreements signed between the government and the FARC. According to local residents, the attack was carried out by the “Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia” (AGC).

Trade union publications banned at Bancamía01-08-2017

In August 2017, whilst collective bargaining was underway, microfinance bank Bancamía prohibited the publication of information on the noticeboards put up at the company for that purpose, and removed the documents posted at the bank’s various branches. The bank refused to allow publicity about the trade union, the distribution of newsletters at its branches, and the display of trade union posters in its offices.

USO Orito leader threatened 31-07-2017

José Socimo Erazo, president of the Orito branch of the Unión Sindical Obrera (USO), was the victim of a threat on 31 July 2017. A man came to the premises of the USO-Orito branch and informed him that a price had been put on his head because the union leader had been denouncing irregularities in the shift rotation.

Teacher affiliated to ADIDA murdered 27-07-2017

Manuel Jaime Arango Maya was the rector of the Rafael Uribe Uribe education institute in Medellin, and a member of the Asociación de Institutores de Antioquia (ADIDA). Manual was killed on 27 July 2017 in front of the San Juan Bosco education institute in the Campo Valdés neighbourhood.

Alberto Román Acosta, president of the Guacarí branch of SINTRAINAGRO murdered 01-07-2017

On 1 July 2017, in the municipality of El Cerrito, in Valle, two hired assassins travelling on a motorbike shot and killed Alberto Román Acosta, president of the Guacarí branch of agricultural workers’ union SINTRAINAGRO, according to the report filed by the CUT.

Bimbo forbids trade union from informing workers 01-07-2017

In July 2017, Bimbo de Colombia prohibited the trade union from distributing bulletins and providing the workers with information at the moment when a decision had to be taken over strike action.

SINTRAUNAL union leader Mauricio Vélez López murdered 21-06-2017

On 21 June, Mauricio Vélez López, national vice president of SINTRAUNAL, was murdered in the municipality of Buenos Aires, in Cauca. According to the report filed by the trade union, between 10 and 12 men dressed in black, wearing hoods, gloves and rubber boots, without any form of identification, took the trade union leader from the house he was visiting. His body was found the following morning.

Graffiti with threats and robbery at ASPU-UT office 13-06-2017

On 6 June 2017, threats were found spray-painted on the headquarters of university teachers’ union Asociación Sindical de Profesores de la Universidad del Tolima (ASPU-UT), on the Tolima University campus. The threats were made by a group of hooded individuals. ASPU-UT also reported that their offices were broken into on 13 June 2017, a laptop computer was stolen containing information about the association and its members, and physical files were found damaged, indicating that specific information was being sought.

Unionised teachers murdered during national teachers’ strike 10-06-2017

Education workers’ federation FECODE (Federación Colombiana de Trabajadores de la Educación) denounced various murders targeting teachers during the nationwide teachers’ strike.

Washington Otero Cedeño, a teacher affiliated to the Asociación de Maestros de Córdoba (ADEMACOR), was murdered on 6 June 2017 on leaving the Sabalito education institute in a rural area of Puerto Escondido, in Córdoba.

Juan Artunduaga was a teacher at the José Eustasio Rivera school in the village of Bruselas in the municipality of Pitalito and was a member of the Asociación de Institutores Huilenses (ADIH). His body was found in the municipality of Paletara, in Cauca, on 7 June 2017, after he had been missing for several days.

Johana Alarcón, a teacher at the Gabriela Mistral education institute and a member of SUTEV, was killed on 8 June 2017. The teacher was killed on reaching her home in Cali, in Valle, by unknown assailants who shot her four times.

ADIH member suffers murder attempt 07-06-2017

On 7 June 2017, Joel Riaño Quimbaya, a teacher and member of the Asociación de Institutores Huilenses (ADIH), was the victim of an attempt on his life in the municipality of Pitalito, in Huila.

Trade union leader from Antioquia forced into exile for lack of security01-06-2017

According to CUT Antioquia, a trade union leader from the mining sector, who was also taking part in human rights platforms in Valle de Aburrá, had been the victim of ongoing threats over recent years and was forced to go into exile during the first half of 2017.

Arrests during protest at multinational Mansarovar 22-05-2017

On 22 May 2017, 40 employees of the multinational company Mansarovar, five of whom were trade union representatives for the Unión Sindical Obrera (USO), were arrested and held by the police until the following day.

Attempt on life of SINTRABGSALINAS president and threats against union members during strike 22-05-2017

After being on strike for 50 days, on 21 April 2017, threats were issued against 12 members of unions representing employees of Big Group Salinas, Sindicato de Trabajadores y Empleados de la Empresa Big Group Salinas Colombia (SINTRASALE) and Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de Big Group Salinas de Manaure (SINTRABGSALINAS). On 22 May 2017, an attempt was made on the life of the president of SINTRABGSALINAS, Carlos Andrés Gómez Galván.

UTP member César Augusto Leguizamon Frankis murdered 15-05-2017

Cesar Augusto Leguizamon Frankis was a prison worker and a member of the Unión de Trabajadores Penitenciarios (UTP) in Tolima. On 15 May 2017, he was hit by three bullets, shot by unknown assailants on a motorbike. The armed group Clan del Golfo claimed responsibility for his murder.

Two campesinos affiliated to FENSUAGRO murdered 14-05-2017

On 14 May 2017, two rural workers affiliated to FENSUAGRO, Calet Morales and Diomar Valverde, were murdered in the municipality of Puerto Asís in Putumayo.

ASTRACAVA leader murdered 13-05-2017

On 13 May 2017, Mario Andrés Calle Correa, president of the Asociación de Trabajadores Campesinos del Valle de Cauca (ASTRACAVA), was murdered in an attack in which he received three gunshot wounds. The crime took place in Corregimiento Santa Rosa de Tapias, in the Alto Pomares district of Guacarí, in Valle.

Threats against CGT leaders 12-05-2017

Enrique Albeiro Franco Valderrama and Luis Alberto Pinzón Zamora, leaders of the Antioquia branch of the Confederación General del Trabajo (CGT) received threats from the Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia on 12 May 2017.

Police repression of SINALTRAINAL protest at Colombina S.A.11-05-2017

On 11 May 2017, members of agri-food workers’ union SINALTRAINAL held an informative meeting about the collective bargaining proposals presented to Colombina S.A., in the municipality of Cota, in Cundinamarca. SINALTRAINAL reported that two National Police officers wearing balaclavas, and without identification badges, arrived at the scene and used violence to disperse the participants and removed the organisation’s banners. Thirteen police officers later arrived, stating that they had receive a call from Colombina S.A. managers reporting that a group of unknown individuals were preventing employees from entering and exiting the workplace, a claim the trade union refutes.

Protest by ASOTRASDIMENE members at Ecopetrol in Barrancabermeja repressed10-05-2017

On 10 May 2017, a group of 16 workers, members of ASOTRASDIMENE, an association representing mining and energy industry workers with work-related illnesses and injuries, who had been dismissed by Ecopetrol in Barrancabermeja, Santander, chained themselves to the entrance of the company in protest at the unfair dismissals of workers with health problems. The protesters were violently dislodged that same day.

Paramilitary group issues threat to CUT Valle09-05-2017

On 9 May 2017, the Valle branch of the CUT trade union centre received written threats from the armed paramilitary group “Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia”, in which several social and trade union organisations in the region were declared military targets.

Attempted murder of SEUP-S.I. affiliates 09-05-2017

On 9 May, Liseth Muñoz and Mauricio Naranjo, members of prison workers’ union Sindicato de Empleados Unidos Penitenciarios (SEUP-S.I.), were injured in an attempt made on their lives, in the municipality of Caucasia, Antioquia. The incident took place during the transfer of two inmates to the city of Medellin.

SINALTRAINAL leader threatened28-04-2017

Enrique José Arévalo, president of the Barranquilla branch of SINALTRAINAL was the victim of a death threat on 28 April 2017. A box was found at the door of the trade union headquarters with a funeral wreath, a photo of Enrique José, his two daughters and their mother, accompanied by a death threat.

Threats against SINTRASALUDCOL leaders in Barranquilla and Cali 25-04-2017

Eric de Jesús Amador Toro and Rodrigo Medina, executive members of national health workers’ union SINTRASALUDCOL (Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de Salud en Colombia), who had been presenting complaints against Saludcoop/Cafesalud, received several threats during 2017. Eric de Jesús, head of the Barranquilla branch, received a written threat, on 16 March 2017, seemingly from the National Liberation Army guerrilla group (Ejército de Liberación Nacional – ELN). Rodrigo Medina, head of the Cali branch, also received threats on 25 April 2017.

Threats against 12 SINTRASALES and SINTRABGSALINAS members during strike 21-04-2017

After being on strike for 50 days, on 21 April 2017, threats were issued against 12 members of unions representing employees of Big Group Salinas, Sindicato de Trabajadores y Empleados de la Empresa Big Group Salinas Colombia (SINTRASALES) and Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de Big Group Salinas de Manaure (SINTRABGSALINAS). Among those threatened were Luis Eduardo Porras Deluque, Robin Ramos Julio, Ricardo Francisco Barliza Gamarra, Oneida Mejía Iguarán and José Marquez, members of SINTRABGSALINAS; and Carlos Humberto Fernández Manjarrés, Carlos Andrés Gómez Galván, José Damián Ducand, Jary Bolaños Blanco, Alex Eloy Martínez Pinedo, Amilcar Rafael Aldana Mendoza and Carmen Alfaro Fonseca Mendoza, members of SINTRASALES.

Assassination attempt against FUNTRAMIEXCO leader 21-04-2017

Francisco Ramírez Cuellar, head of FUNTRAMIEXCO (Federación Unitaria de Trabajadores Mineros, Energéticos, Metalúrgicos, Químicos, de las Industrias Extractivas, Transportadoras y Similares de Colombia), was the victim of an attempt on his life in his own office on 21 April 2017.

Threats against SINTRAUNICOL leader18-04-2017

Carlos Arturo Molina, head of the Quindío branch of university employees’ union SINTRAUNICOL (Sindicato de Trabajadores y Empleados Universitarios de Colombia), was threatened on 18 April 2017. The trade unionist decided to resign as president of the union following the threat made in response to the organisation’s support for the peace process.

Paramilitary group issues threats to teachers affiliated to ADE for taking part peace lectures17-04-2017

On 17 April 2017, three letters signed by the paramilitary group “Águilas Negras” were found at the Benjamín Herrera district education institute in Bogotá. Threats were made against the lives and physical integrity of the leaders of district education workers’ trade union Asociación Distrital de Educadores (ADE). According to David Cerero Chitiva, a member of the union, the teachers threatened had been taking part in lectures and research about the peace agreements, together with their students.

Break-in at home of FENSUAGRO leader and threats against himself and his family17-04-2017

Huber de Jesús Ballesteros, national leader of the Federación Nacional Sindical Unitaria Agropecuaria (FENSUAGRO) and a member of social and political movement Marcha Patriótica, received a threat from the paramilitary group “Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia” on 17 April 2017. A week later, on 8 May, a group of unknown individuals broke into his home in Cauca, leaving the doors and windows open but stealing nothing. The following day he received another note in which the group threatened to rape his wife and daughter, and confirmed that they had been in his home the previous day. On 7 June, Huber and his daughter were once again threatened by the “Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia”, in a message stating that the Peace Agreements would not be implemented and declaring him a military target. They added that it did not matter to them whether he had protection and said that they knew that his wife and daughter had no security at all. Finally, they said that he would go back to jail, which he should never have left, in their view.

UTP activist Edinson Montenegro murdered 12-04-2017

Edinson Montenegro worked at Tuluá prison and was an active member of the Unión de Trabajadores Penitenciarios (UTP). The trade unionist had denounced cases of corruption at the penitentiary. He was murdered on 12 April 2017 by an individual who was reportedly caught minutes later in Tuluá.

Threats against SINTRAIME, CUT and FENSUAGRO leaders in Cesar 07-04-2017

On 7 April 2017, a threat signed by the Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia (AGC) was sent to the emails of union leaders and human rights defenders in Cesar. The trade union leaders threatened included Javier Martínez Cabello, president of the metalworkers’ union SINTRAIME and human rights secretary of the Cesar branch of the CUT, as well as Elvia Jiménez, head of the Federación Nacional Sindical Unitaria Agropecuaria (FENSUAGRO).

Death threats against ASTRAZONACAL members 06-04-2017

Gerardo Barona Avirama, Luis Elmer Fernández and María Elena Gómez, human rights defenders and members of ASTRAZONACAL (Asociación de Trabajadores pro Constitución Zonas de Reserva Campesina de Caloto), affiliated to agricultural workers’ federation FENSUAGRO, were threatened on 6 April 2017 by the “Águilas Negras”, who referred to them as “corrupt, crooked leaders that meet with the FARC-EP”.

Riot police violently repress public employees’ protest 30-03-2017

On 30 March 2017, state employees staged a protest after Finance Minister Mauricio Cárdenas failed to attend the negotiation of the third national collective bargaining proposals presented to the National Government by public employees’ unions and federations. The protest was repressed by riot police officers, who used violence to disperse the workers.

Protest by workers from San Francisco Hospital repressed by riot police 30-03-2017

On 2 March 2017, members of the Sindicato de Trabajadores del Hospital San Francisco (SINTRASANFRANCISCO) staged a public demonstration in front of the municipal council offices in the city of Ibagué. According to Yesid Camacho, president of the public sector trade union centre ANTHOC, riot police were called in to forcibly disperse the protesters, who were mainly women, and attempts were made to arrest a number of demonstrators.

National leader of USO threatened on Twitter 23-03-2017

On 23 March 2017, a threatening message was posted on social media: “@JuanpTello: @Las2Orillas, thanks to the democratic security policy, unionised guerrillas like @PalmaEdwin, can enjoy the privilege of staying at home rather than lying in a grave.” Edwin Palma Egea, vice president of the Unión Sindical Obrera (USO), had published an article on the Las2Orillas site around the date of the threat.

ASTCABAL member suffers armed attack14-03-2017

Víctor Manuel Muñoz Córdoba, a member of the Asociación de Trabajadores Campesinos del Municipio de Balboa (ASTCABAL), affiliated to FENSUAGRO-CUT, was the victim of an armed attack on 14 March 2017, in La Planada, in the municipality of Balboa- Cauca. The public vehicle he was travelling in was stopped by two individuals with balaclavas covering their faces, who threatened the occupants with firearms. When Víctor decided to jump out of the vehicle and take flight, the attackers fired three shots and one of the bullets hit him in the right arm. He managed escape down a mountainside, falling into the River Turbio, where he was dragged along by the current until he was helped to safety and taken to hospital.

Illegal use of protective contracts to weaken unions 10-03-2017

Colombian legislation sets out a framework for negotiations between employers and non-unionised workers through collective agreements (article 481, Substantive Labour Code). In practice, however, when such agreements are used in companies where trade unions are present, they become an anti-union strategy that undermines the concept of collective bargaining.

A typical approach is to go through the motions of negotiating with non-unionised workers (or simply not to hold negotiations at all), who are then awarded benefits greater than or equal to those on offer within the collective agreement. To benefit from these advantages, the worker must not be a union member. Thus, where collective agreements are imposed, unions often see a decrease in or stagnation of their membership and sometimes even disappear altogether.

In 2016, the following 37 unions had open cases that had been submitted to the Ministry of Labour regarding the illegal use of collective agreements:

1. Sinaltrainbec vs. Cervecería del Valle S.A.
3. SINTHOL vs. Club Campestre el Rodeo
4. Sindicato de trabajadores de cajas de compensación familiar (SINALTRACAF) vs. Comfenalco Cartagena
5. Sinaltradihitexco vs. Tejidos de punto Linda Lana
6. SINALTRAINBEC subdirectiva Cartagena vs. Maltería Tropical S.A.
7. SINALTRAINBEC subdirectiva Tocancipá vs. Bavaria S.A.
8. SINTRACORPAUL vs. Corporación de Fomento Asistencial del Hospital Universitario San Vicente de Paul (Corpaul)
9. Sindicato de trabajadores de empresas de servicios públicos domiciliarios de Norte de Santander (SINTRAEMSPDNS) vs. Aguas Kpital Cúcuta S.A. E.S.P.
10. Sindicato Nacional de la Industria Lechera (SINTRAINDULECHE) vs. Proleche S.A.
11. Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores del Sistema Alimentario (SINTRALIMENTICIA) vs. Comercial Nutresa S.A.S.
12. SINTRALIMENTICIA vs. Industrias de alimentos ZENÚ S.A.S.
13. SINTRANUTRESA vs. Comercial Nutresa S.A.
14. Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Promotora Turística del Caribe S.A. (SINTRAPROTUCARIBE) vs. Promotora Turística del Caribe S.A. (PROTUCARIBE)
15. Sindicato Nacional de la Industria Química y/o Farmacéutica de Colombia (SINTRAQUIM), Cartagena branch vs. Abocol S.A.
16. Sindicato de Trabajadores de la industria textil (SINTRATEXTIL) Medellín branch vs. Leonisa S.A.
17. ASEFINCO vs. Bancamía
18. SINPRISA vs. Caracol
19. SINPROSEG vs. Seguridad Atlas
20. SINTRALPLA vs. Alpla
21. SINTRABRINKS vs. Brinks
22. SINTRAIMAGRA vs. Sociedad Mejía
23. SINTRAPULCAR vs. Protisa
24. UNTRAEMIS vs. Grupo Emi
25. SINTRAOSI vs. Medisanitas
26. UNITRAPELPAK vs. Pelpak S.A.
27. UNISINTRAGAL vs. Gaseosas Lux
28. SINTRABRINSA vs. Brinsa S.A.
29. SNTT vs. Sociedad Portuaria Regional de Buenaventura S.A.
30. SNTT vs. DHL
31. USTI vs. ALPLA S.A.
32. USTI vs. Simens
33. USTI vs. Fiberglass
34. SINALTRABIMBO vs. Bimbo de Colombia S.A.
35. SINTRAIME vs. Dimantec Ltda.
36. SINTRAPROF vs. Profamilia
37. UTIBAC vs. AJE de Colombia

Attack with explosive device against SINTRAINAGRO offices in Ciénaga 08-03-2017

On 8 March of 2017, a bomb attack was perpetrated at the Ciénaga branch office of the agribusiness workers’ union SINTRAINAGRO, in the department of Magdalena, causing damage to several parts of the building, during a meeting of national and branch union leaders. The explosive device blew up underneath the vehicle of SINTRAINAGRO leader Medardo Cuesta Quejada, parked in front of the union office.

Brother and sister, agricultural workers affiliated to SINTRAGRIM, murdered 05-03-2017

José Antonio and Luz Ángela Anzola Tejedor, brother and sister, members of the Sindicato de Trabajadores Agrícolas Independientes del Meta (SINTRAGRIM), affiliated to agricultural workers’ federation FENSUAGRO, were murdered on 5 March 2017 at their home in the municipality of Mesetas, in Meta. According to the president of the union, David Martínez, “The individuals who entered the house where hooded and armed. They arrived during the night and identified themselves as members of an illegal group.”

Threats against USO Barrancabermeja leader 05-03-2017

On 4 and 5 March, unknown individuals took photos of the home of Daniel Sosa, president of the Barrancabermeja branch of the USO. The union has been denouncing the threats received by Sosa and other USO leaders from the same city since August 2016.

Threats against USO leaders and members 04-03-2017

On 4 March 2017, leaders of the Huila branch of the Unión Sindical Obrera (USO), Rudesindo Charry, Jose Orlando Salazar, Nelson Molano and Antonio Celis, received threats, sent to their mobile telephones, declaring them and all members of the USO military targets.

Detention and threat of Cristóbal Guamanga, leader of SINPEAGRIC 03-03-2017

Cristóbal Guamanga, is a leader of a small farmers’ union, Sindicato de Pequeños Agricultores (SINPEAGRIC), affiliated to FENSUAGRO. The social and rural workers’ leader has been followed and threatened on several occasions. In January 2017, Cristóbal and other social leaders were detained by members of the National Army. On 3 March 2017, he received a death threat against himself and members of other social and political organisations.

FENSUAGRO and other organisations receive death threats 03-03-2017

On 3 March 2017, an email with the subject line “Death sentence for guerrillas” was sent to the leaders of several social, community and trade union organisations, including the Federación Nacional Sindical Unitaria Agropecuaria (FENSUAGRO). The threat came from the illegal armed group “Águilas Negras”.

Cuts in security measures for CGT leaders despite ongoing threats 01-03-2017

During the second half of 2016 and the first quarter of 2017, cuts were made to the security arrangements of a number of CGT trade union leaders in Antioquia, whose work takes them to Medellin, Rionegro and Bello. Among those affected were the CGT Antioquia branch president, Rubén Darío Gómez Hurtado, its general secretary, Jorge Iván Diez Vélez, the president and human rights secretary of the Bello branch of the UTP, Luis Alberto Pinzón, and its deputy general secretary, Gerardo de Jesús Sánchez Zapata. Protection measures were also partially withdrawn from the president of the CGT in Urabá, Albeiro Franco Valderrama. These cuts were made despite the fact that CGT Antioquia leaders received threats throughout 2016 and in May 2017.

Violent repression and arrests at USO demonstrations 28-02-2017

On 28 February 2017, the Unión Sindical Obrero (USO) staged a stoppage in the municipalities of Barrancabermeja, Bucaramanga, Cartagena, Casabe, Canta Gallo, Putumayo, Meta and Sabana de Torres. Around 1,500 workers took part in the demonstrations held in protest at Ecopetrol S.A.’s labour outsourcing policy. According to USO leaders, the military was deployed at a number of the protests.

In Cartagena, the anti-riot squad (ESMAD) and the Marine Infantry were deployed to repress the demonstration; three workers were left injured and four were arrested. USO leader Wilmer Hernández was hit with the butt of a rifle. Demonstrators protesting at the offices of the Colombian Petroleum Institute in Bucaramanga were attacked by riot police.

Paramilitary group issues death threat against ASOGRAS president 27-02-2017

On 27 February 2017, agrarian union Asociación Agraria de Santander (ASOGRAS) received a death threat from the paramilitary group “Los Urabeños”, in which its president and all of its members were declared military targets for taking part in meetings and forums promoting the peace process.

Arrests during USO protest in Cartagena 27-02-2017

On 27 February 2017, during a day of protest against precarious employment and pay cuts, five workers affiliated to the Cartagena branch of the Unión Sindical Obrera (USO) were arrested by antiriot police (ESMAD) and charged with assaulting a public servant, obstructing the public highway and property damage.

Attacks on USO Cartagena leaders during day of protest 27-02-2017

On 27 February 2017, during a day of protest by subcontracted workers in the oil industry over job insecurity and arbitrary pay cuts, leaders of the Cartagena branch of the Unión Sindical Obrera (USO), Alexander Escobar, Wilmar Hernández and Rodolfo Vecino, were denied access to the Cartagena refinery and were assaulted by riot police.

Threats against executive of USO Sabana 26-02-2017

On 26 February 2017, a pamphlet was left at the homes of the executive members of the Sabana de Torres branch of the Unión Sindical Obrera (USO), linked to the union’s activities in Magdalena Medio. Eduen Orlando Mitchell, president of the Sabana de Torres branch of the USO, as well as Deiver Parra and José Daniel Pérez González, leaders from the Santander branch of the CUT were threatened.

Assassination attempt against SINATRA leader 23-02-2017

Over Fuentes, president of the Apartadó branch of the Sindicato de Trabajadores de la Agroindustria (SINATRA), suffered an attempt on his life on 23 February 2017 when heading for a meeting with the workers of a plantation in the village of Río Grande de Turbo. He escaped uninjured thanks to the swift reaction of one of his bodyguards. The attack was carried out by two unknown assailants with firearms. The trade union leader has been the victim of four attacks over the last two years.

FENSUAGRO member suffers murder attempt16-02-2017

Edwin Jair Solís Muñoz, a member of the Federación Nacional Sindical Unitaria Agropecuaria (FENSUAGRO), suffered an attempt on his life on 16 February 2017 close to his home in a rural area of the municipality of Sucre, in Cauca. Hooded men in dark clothes, armed with rifles, shot at him several times. Edwin managed to escape to a safe place.

ASPU executive included in collective threat against Cauca union leaders 09-02-2017

On 9 February 2017, a collective threat in an email signed by the Águilas Negras was addressed to various social and trade union organisations from Popayán and the department of Cauca, including ASOINCA, ASPU, CIMA, ACIN, Ruta Pacífica de las Mujeres, ACIT, COCOCAUCA and Junta Patriótica. The threat stated that they intended to eliminate the human rights defenders and social leaders that had been supporting the peace process. Specific reference was made to the executive of the Cauca branch of university professors’ trade union APSU (Asociación Sindical de Profesores Universitarios), comprising its president, Diego Cáceres, vice president, Luis Reinel Vásquez, treasurer, José Omar Zúñiga, fiscal secretary, Luis Evelio Zúñiga, secretary, Olga Lucia Sanabria, and spokespersons, Mario Delgado, Stella Pino and Cesar Alfaro Mosquera.

Assassination attempt against SINALTRAINAL leader 09-02-2017

On 9 February 2017, Alfonso Barón Sánchez, president of the Cesar branch of SINALTRAINAL (Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores del Sistema Agroalimentario), was the victim of an attempt on his life, perpetrated as he approaching his home in the La Popa neighbourhood of the city of Valledupar. The trade union and social activist was shot at by four individuals travelling on two motorbikes.

Death threat against leaders of Ciénaga branch of SINTRAINAGRO 09-02-2017

On 9 February 2017, Alfonso Mendoza Álvarez and José Borja Escalante, leaders of the Ciénaga branch of agribusiness workers’ union SINTRAINAGRO (Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Industria Agropecuaria), received a written death threat from paramilitary group “Los Rastrojos”, ordering them to leave the area.

Threats against SINTRAVIESCOLS leaders following complaint against employer 03-02-2017

On 3 February 2017, threats were issued against trade unionists from private security workers’ union SINTRAVIESCOLS (Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Vigilancia, Escoltas y Similares), in Valle del Cauca, as well as a leader from the Valle branch of the CUT. SINTRAVIESCOLS was in the process of conducting collective bargaining negotiations at the time and had filed a complaint with the Labour Ministry against one of the employers. The threat was left at the home of the trade union’s president. Among the trade unionists threatened were the vice president of CUT Valle, Jhonson Torres, CUT Valle members Oscar Montaño, Carlos Gómez, Julián Rocha and Silvio Sánchez, and SINTRAVIESCOLS leaders Jaime Cárdenas (president), Eduard Lenis (fiscal secretary), Carlos Zúñiga (vice president), John Paz (general secretary) and Omar Caicedo (hospital committee).

Attempt on life of SINTRAMIENERGÉTICA leader 01-02-2017

On 1 February 2017, an attempt was made on the life of Augusto Almeida, organising secretary of the El Paso branch of SINTRAMIENERGÉTICA (Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Industria Minera, Petroquímica, Agrocombustibles y Energética), when he was leaving home to go to work at the El Descanso mine owned by Drummond. The trade union leader noticed the presence of strange individuals, who started to shoot at him. Fortunately, he managed to take refuge in his house and the bullets hit the front door. The trade union organisation highlighted that the attack took place after cuts to the protection measures provided for SINTRAMIENERGÉTICA, SINTRAIME and FUNTRAMIEXCO leaders.

Break-in at home of USO Barrancabermeja leader 26-01-2017

On 26 January 2017, the home of Ludwing Gómez Almeida, members and beneficiaries secretary of the National Executive of the Unión Sindical Obrera, was broken into in the city of Barrancabermeja. A laptop computer and a professional camera were taken containing important evidence supporting complaints underway.

Threat against communication workers’ union leader 22-01-2017

Andrés Felipe Bonilla Maya, leader of the Unión Sindical de Trabajadores de las Comunicaciones, was threatened on 22 January 2017 in Cali, Valle. The threat came after the trade union leader published a video, on 19 January, inviting workers to join the union. The threat also stated that the perpetrators knew where his children lived.

SIMANA leader threatened 16-01-2017

Lucia Patricia Hidalgo Bastidas, teacher and leader of the Sindicato del Magisterio de Nariño (SIMANA) was threatened in Pasto, Nariño, on 16 January 2017. An envelope containing a death threat was left at the trade union office of the Nariño branch of the CUT trade union centre.

USO Cartagena leader and his family threatened 10-01-2017

On 10 January 2017, a folder was found at the home of the national secretary of the USO-Ecopetrol joint occupational health committee and former leader of the Cartagena branch of the USO, containing death threats against the USO leader Luis Eduardo Cervantes Martínez. At the same time, an envelope with similar threats was found at the home of Luis Eduardo’s children. The threat was signed by the Águilas Negras.

SINTRAMIENERGÉTICA member Aldemar Parra García murdered 07-01-2017

Aldemar Parra García, a social leader, human rights defender, activist and a member of the El Paso branch of SINTRAMIENERGÉTICA (Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Industria Minera, Petroquímica, Agrocombustibles y Energética), in Cesar, was murdered on 7 January 2017 by two individuals on a motorbike, who fired several shots.

ASTRACATOL leaders and members receive death threats 06-01-2017

On 6 January 2017, death threats were issued to various organisations defending human rights in the department of Tolima, including rural workers’ organisation ASTRACATOL (Asociación de Trabajadores Campesinos del Tolima). The threats were directed at leaders from the trade u nion organisation, including Antonio García, Jailer González, Maribel Oviedo, Luis Eduardo Olaya, as well as rank-and-file members Elmer García, Jorge Eliécer Ramírez, Luis Carlos Forero Murcia, Hernán Torres Rueda, Ernesto Soto, Edwin Leguizamón, Gustavo Yanguma, and the head of the Tolima branch of the Central Unitaria de Trabajadores (CUT), Nelson Moreno. The threats were issued by local paramilitary group Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia.

Leader of CUT Cauca threatened 03-01-2017

Oscar Gerardo Salazar Muñoz is a human rights defender, rural, trade union, social and political leader. He is a teacher and a member of SUTEC (Sindicato Unitario de Trabajadores de la Educación del Cauca) and vice president of the Cauca branch of the CUT trade union centre. On 3 January 2017, he was threatened via his mobile phone, in a message threatening to put an end to his peace making aspirations and declaring him a military target.

Violations of the life, liberty and integrity of union members in Colombia 31-12-2016

Between 1 January and 31 December 2016, there were at least 266 cases of violations of the life, liberty and integrity of union members in Colombia, including 19 murders, 17 attacks (with or without injuries) and 186 threats. In spite of measures to overcome violence against them, unions continue to be affected by this issue. Despite a downward trend in anti-union violence over the last few years, 2016 saw a 31% increase in reported incidents from the previous year, and there are still many worrying cases that have been documented. An initial analysis of these cases shows that some of the threats occur in contexts where unions were leading educational processes for peace and campaigns to support the agreement between the Government of Colombia and the FARC–EP.

Unjustified retention of ASEFINCO union membership fee30-12-2016

In 2016, at Bancamía, a bank for small businesses, the union membership fee for staff who are members of the bank workers union Asociación Sindical de Empleados Bancarios del Sector Financiero Colombiano (ASEFINCO) was automatically deducted, but only 70% of this amount was received by the union. The union has requested documentation on the deductions in order to conduct a legal investigation of this unlawful retention, but the company has refused to provide the relevant information.

Violent repression and arrests at USO demonstrations 28-12-2016

On 28 February 2017, the Unión Sindical Obrero (USO) staged a stoppage in the municipalities of Barrancabermeja, Bucaramanga, Cartagena, Casabe, Canta Gallo, Putumayo, Meta and Sabana de Torres. Around 1,500 workers took part in the demonstrations held in protest at Ecopetrol S.A.’s labour outsourcing policy. According to USO leaders, the military was deployed at a number of the protests.

In Cartagena, the anti-riot squad (ESMAD) and the Marine Infantry were deployed to repress the demonstration; three workers were left injured and four were arrested. USO leader Wilmer Hernández was hit with the butt of a rifle. Demonstrators protesting at the offices of the Colombian Petroleum Institute in Bucaramanga were attacked by riot police.

Threats against union organisations in Cali 12-12-2016

A number of civil society and union organisations were threatened in Cali, Valle, on 12 December 2016, including the CUT, SINTRAUNICOL, SINTRAHOSPICLINICAS, CGT and SINTRAEMCALI via a letter from the paramilitary organisation Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia. The threat focused on the organisations’ educational work and support for the peace process between the government and FARC–EP.

Anti-union dismissals and violence in Petromil 06-12-2016

Ten workers from the multinational Petromil in El Crucero in the municipality of Sahagún, Córdoba who joined the oil industry workers’ union Unión Sindical Obrera de la Industria del Petróleo (USO), were immediately dismissed, violating all legal proceedings. Some were even informed of their dismissal by telephone. This gave rise to 51 days of continuous action. On 3 December 2016, the community and workers involved in this activity were removed by members of the Mobile Anti-Disturbance Squadron (ESMAD) at the request of the Mayor of Sahagún, the municipal inspector and the chief of police.

Anti-union dismissals at Sparta Minerals S.A.S. 23-11-2016

In November 2016, the company Sparta Minerals S.A.S., owner of the Nechí mine on the border of Amagá and Fredonia (Antioquia), dismissed seven workers who had formed the Unión Sindical Minera del Suroeste Antioqueño (USMIS) to defend themselves against the abuses of the company, which has been present in the region since December 2014, when it acquired the mine from Sator, a subsidiary of the Latin American Argos Group. The seven workers received a letter form the company notifying them that their services were no longer required, resulting in their unfair dismissal and payment of the legally established severance pay just three days after having formed the union. This action is clearly selective retaliation, given that six of the seven workers dismissed formed part of the union leadership (including its president).

Anti-union dismissals at the Mexican publisher Fondo de Cultura Económica 23-11-2016

In November 2016, the Mexican publisher Fondo de Cultura Económica (FCE) dismissed six workers at its Bogota office the day after they had joined the Sindicato de Trabajadoras y Trabajadores de las Organizaciones No Gubernamentales y Sociales (SINTRAONGS). Workplace harassment of the FCE workers began after the arrival of a new manager from Mexico, who imposed operational changes and implemented an employment policy that increased pressure on workers to improve their performance and sales, causing anxiety and a poor working environment. The new manager also eliminated the previously established end-of-year bonus. The following day, the six union workers received letters from the management advising them that their contract had been terminated due to an alleged restructuring of the company. SINTRAONGS has no doubt that this was clearly an example of anti-union action, since the only staff dismissed as a result of the restructuring were the six employees who had joined the union. Furthermore, job advertisements for these six vacancies were advertised. The irony is that the FCE code of conduct and ethics requires its staff to respect and promote human rights.

Arbitrary detention during a protest in San Martín26-10-2016

On 26 October 2016, the communities of San Martín in the department of Cesar declared a public strike in protest against the use of hydraulic fracturing (fracking), a method for exploiting hydrocarbons that is harmful to health and the environment. The Mobile Anti-Disturbance Squadron (ESMAD) charged at the protesters to break up the protest, leaving a number injured. There were also ten arbitrary detentions, including Moisés Barón, leader of the USO Meta branch, who was released the following day.

Threats against ASTDEMP members21-10-2016

In October 2016, the Asociación Santandereana de Servidores Públicos (ASTDEMP) made accusations of the mismanagement of public resources, workplace harassment and union persecution.
On 21 October 2016, César Pabón, president of the Barrancabermeja branch of ASTDEMP, received a text message on his mobile phone with death threats against union members because of the accusations and stating they had been declared a military target.

Attempted murder of SINDESS leader23-09-2016

On 22 September 2016, Libaniel Franco Castañeda, officer of the Sindicato Nacional de la Salud y la Seguridad Social (SINDESS) in the municipality of Dagua, was attacked by armed men who shot at his vehicle. The union member was already under protection, following earlier threats against him and other colleagues at the hospital.

Threats and attack against USO leader13-09-2016

On 13 September 2016, Alexander Castro Peñaloza, leader of the central branch of the Unión Sindical Obrera de la Industria del Petróleo (USO), was attacked during a meeting with the staff of a sub-contractor. Shortly before, both Peñaloza and John Alexander Rodríguez Quintero, leader of the USO national leadership, had received threats.

Use of disproportionate force by police to suppress protests by the teachers’ union30-08-2016

In August 2016, 7,000 members of the teachers’ union Asociación de Institutores del Cauca (ASOINCA) began an indefinite walk-out due to poor health coverage. The strike lasted for 27 days and involved various protests, and included the participation of students and members of the community. During the protest, there were attacks by the police. The protesters denounced the disproportionate use of force by national police officers and the Mobile Anti-Disturbance Squadron (ESMAD).

Anti-union policy at Postobon01-08-2016

Postobon, which belongs to the conglomerate Organización Ardila Lulle, in association with multinational PepsiCo, is operating a policy aimed at eradicating trade union organisations. By August 2016, the company had dismissed over 3,000 unionised workers from 27 production centres across the country. After having eliminated the collective agreements and done away with the trade unions, the company restructured, establishing four large “inter-companies”, enabling it to continue with its operations, employing workers through employment agencies, without social protection and under poor health and safety conditions.

Charges and shootings by police during protests in Puerto Cayao31-07-2016

In July 2016, 700 workers at the company SACYR Colombia E.U., supported by the Unión Sindical Obrera de la Industria del Petróleo (USO) in Puerto Cayao, Cartagena, held a strike against the company to protest over employment rights. Five days later, a decision was taken to stage a protest alongside other workers in the region, with participants set to march to a site where another group of workers would be awaiting their arrival to hold a demonstration. However, when they were just 500 metres away, the protesters were charged at and contained by officers of the Mobile Anti-Disturbance Squadron (ESMAD) and the national police, using tear gas, stun grenades and gun shots.

Police action against a strike at Compass Group16-05-2016

On 16 May 2016, 400 members of the Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Industria de la Alimentación (SINALTRAINAL), employed by the multinational Compass Group (a British company that provides food services to the coal mining company Drummond Ltd.), staged a strike due to the company’s failure to comply with previously signed agreements. They were demanding an end to repression and calls for excessive dismissals as a result of activities to defend rights. Four days later, Drummond Ltd. requested police intervention to forcefully remove workers who were still at their workstations.

Threats against members of ANTHOC, Norte de Santander branch10-05-2016

On 17 February 2016, Arístides Hernández Duarte, President of the Asociación Nacional Sindical de Trabajadores (ANTHOC), Norte de Santander branch, was threatened by the paramilitary group Los Rastrojos Comando Urbanos. On 11 April, he received a threat from the armed group Clan Usuga. The threat came in the context of a series of accusations by Arístides against corruption in hiring new managers and service staff in various public organisations. On 9 May 2016, Arístides and Germán Orlando González Gelves, also a leader of the Norte de Santander branch of ANTHOC, received new threats.

Shootings at union offices in Cartagena de Indias06-05-2016

On 6 May 2016, an armed attack took place inside the offices of the Sindicato Único de Trabajadores de la Industria de los Materiales de Construcción (SUTIMAC) in the district of Barrio Nuevo Bosque in Cartagena de Indias. At the time, a meeting between unions was taking place among Manuel Fernández Leguia (General Secretary of SUTIMAC, Branch President for Cartagena and Vice-President of CUT Bolívar), Ricardo Escobar (Leader of SUTIMAC Cartagena) and Jorge Álvarez (Branch President for Cartagena and National Treasurer of SINTRASODEXO). Imelda Cotes Daza, a member of the Patriotic Union political party, was also present at the offices, carrying out educational work with a group of young people to promote peace. The attack resulted in injuries to Donaldo Chisica Franco, Manuel Fernández’ bodyguard, who is also a member of the SINPROSEG and UNSINTRASEG unions.

Threats against members of SINTRAMIENERGÉTICA 20-04-2016

On 20 April 2016, threats were received against the leadership of the La Jagua de Ibirico branch of the Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Industria Minera, Petroquimica, Agrocombustibles y Energetica (SINTRAMIENERGÉTICA) and against members of the national union leadership and the executive committee of FUNTRAMIEXCO, including Alfredo Tovar, Ricardo Machado, Gustavo Benjumea, Álvaro Rincón and Wilder Martínez. The threats came in the context of a collective bargaining process when the union had approved the list of demands for submission to the transnational Glencore, represented by Carbones de la Jagua S.A., which is responsible for coal mining operations in this part of the country, together with the consortium Consorcio Minero del Cesar C.M.U.

Threats against SINTRAINAL members in Bugalagrande20-04-2016

In Bugalagrande, Valle, on 20 April 2016, a pamphlet was distributed in which the paramilitary group Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia declared various union organisations and union leaders as military targets, including SINALTRAINAL and a number of its members: Javier Correa, Edgar Páez, Diego Rodríguez, Rafael Esquivel, Onofre Esquivel, Mauricio Valencia Tamayo Wilson Riaño and Álvaro Varela. The pamphlet also mentioned CUT Valle, ANTHOC, SUTEP, Wilson Sáenz and José Sánchez..

Health sector trade unionist murdered12-04-2016

On 12 April 2016, the Central Unitaria de Trabajadores (CUT) denounced the killing of Oswaldo Hernández Gutiérrez, president of the San Sebastián de Buenavista branch of the Sindicato Nacional de la Salud y Seguridad Social (SINDESS), in the department of Magdalena.

The attack took place on the night of Thursday 7 April when the trade unionist was about to enter his home. He was shot several times in the head and neck. Seriously wounded, he was taken to a hospital in the city of Valledupar, where he received surgery but subsequently died from his injuries in the early hours of Sunday 10 April.

The trade unionist worked as a sanitation technician at the E.S.E. Hospital Rafael Paba Manjarrez in the municipality of San Sebastián. He worked relentlessly, in his capacity as a trade union leader, to defend the rights and interests of the health sector workers in Magdalena.

Strange interest to obtain union information 04-04-2016

On 4 April 2016, the University of Tolima received a letter from Senator of the Republic, Guillermo Santos Marín, requesting Rector Herman Muñoz Ñungo provide detailed information on members of the university’s union, as well as annual lists of members who had joined in the last five years. Senator Guillermo Santos Marín has never shown any interest in defending or promoting the university and as such this strange interest in obtaining union information is not understood.

Anti-union practices at Clínica las Vegas01-04-2016

In January 2016, the Sindicato de Trabajadores de la Salud y la Seguridad Social (SINTRASASS) began collective bargaining with Clínica Las Vegas. No agreement was reached in direct talks between the employer and staff and before workers could vote for a strike or arbitration, Clínica Las Vegas distributed a document among staff agreeing to a wage rise for workers who weren’t union members or who resigned their membership. From this point, the union lost 20% of its membership in three months, falling from 135 members in January 2016 to 108 members in April 2016. It was also noted that all resignations were in the same format and were not submitted to the union but were all based in the clinic’s documentation centre.a.

Threats against ANTHOC leaders in Barranquilla 01-03-2016

On 1 March 2016, leaders of the Asociación Nacional Sindical de Trabajadores (ANTHOC) in Barranquilla, Héctor Alvis, Heriberto Tovar, Alberto Marquez, Osiris Fernández, Juan de la Torre, Esquide Sandoval, Victor Dirruyeiro and Napoleón Nugo, received a letter with a dog’s head and a threatening message at the union office. For Heriberto Tovar, president of the union branch, whose name also appeared in the pamphlet, there is no doubt that the threats are a response to the union’s fight for the formalisation of labour in the Atlántico department health sector, through accusations and cases submitted to lawyers and the Ministry of Labour. The accusations relate to the outsourcing of employment, specifically in 24 public hospitals in the department’s municipalities, where illegal contracting through simplified stock companies (S.A.S.) and associated labour cooperatives persists. The accusations are complemented by criminal charges against corruption that have seen resources in the health sector squandered.

Violent repression of court workers’ protestes judiciales01-02-2016

On 1 February 2016, about 300 men from the Mobile Anti-riot Squad (Esmad) violently attacked judicial workers who were protesting outside the the civil and family courts in central Bogotá.
The civil servants were protesting against Agreement 10445 of the Higher Council of the Judiciary (CSJ) whch created Service Centres for for civil and family courts.
During Esmad’s attack, blows were struck and electric pistols were used, leaving several people injured, including a pregnant woman.

Threats against CTC trade union leaders31-12-2015

During 2015, 22 CTC trade union leaders received threats via pamphlets, telephone calls, WhatsApp messages and bullets fired at a trade union’s headquarters. The vehicle carrying the president and other members of the CTC had previously been hit by several bullets in an attack in the city of Cali.

Attacks on CTC31-12-2015

The Confederación de Trabajadores de Colombia (CTC) was attacked on two occasions during 2015. The first was a bomb attack that affected the facade and structure of the building where the confederation’s national head office is based in Bogotá. The second was the robbery of two computers with valuable information, the back-ups of all the computers’ contents and other essential work tools.

Shots were fired at the headquarters of the CTC-affiliated union Sintradrummond in Santa Marta in September 2014.

Collective pacts and discrimination against union organisations 20-12-2015

During the year 2015, trade union centres reported the unequal and discriminatory treatment of the following unions:

Sintradem (Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores Enfermos y Discapacitados del Sector Minero). Since its foundation, the company has requested that the union be shut down and has discriminated against it in relation to other organisations at Drummond.

Sintrachalber. The company does not deduct union dues and extends the benefits won by the trade union to all the workers, to encourage them not to join the union or to leave it if they are already members.

Workers belonging to ASPECLUM have been the targets of an ongoing campaign, since 14 December 2015, to press them to leave the union. Transfers are continually being used as a means of pressuring and intimidating the union’s members. Since the trade union was constituted, several of its leaders have been transferred on over five occasions.

In August 2015, Sidicerpucom was founded. As soon as the trade union was set up, the employer applied for the special legal protection against dismissal, detriment or transfer granted to trade union representatives to be withdrawn from virtually all of the trade union’s executive members.

During 2015, workers affiliated to trade unions faced constant acts of discrimination, intimidation and persecution at security firms Honor Services, Seguridad Atempi and Smart Security Ltda. The companies sought to give greater benefits to non-unionised workers, denied representatives trade union leave, failed to comply with the collective agreement and continually treated union members unequally.

In 2015, Sinaltradihitexco filed an administrative complaint to the Labour Ministry denouncing the use of “collective pacts” as tools for anti-union discrimination and the violation of freedom of association, as well as the ongoing violations of this group of workers’ collective rights.
Unionised workers at Corporación Hato Grande and Tennis Country Club have been the victims of an intimidation campaign, workplace harassment and persecution aimed at forcing them to leave the trade union. The anti-union persecution began as soon as the workers at Corporación Hato Grande Golf and Tennis Country Club – in Sopó – joined the Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores del Sector Gastronómico y Hotelero, HOCAR. Disciplinary procedures have been initiated against the workers, accusing them of all kinds of irregularities; the place where they work is changed so that they do not come into contact with members of the club; their workload is increased; they are penalised without due cause and keeping their jobs is made conditional on their leaving the union. The trade union has been filing complaints with the relevant institutions but these have not taken any measures thus far. The trade union organisation also presented a complaint to the ILO regarding the decision of the high court of Cundinamarca to cancel the registration of the Sopó branch of the HOCAR union.

Barriers to collective bargaining10-12-2015

Since the Constitutional Court lifted the limitation of a single union per company, all trade unions in Colombia are deemed representative. In 2015, however, there were several cases of unions with large numbers of members being denied the right to negotiate with employers.

During 2015, the Sindicato de Trabajadores de la Organización Sanitas Internacional (SINTRAOSI), having been prevented from electing delegates for the union’s National Meeting, did not secure the approval of its list of bargaining demands, resulting in the collective bargaining process being blocked. The trade union requested verbally and in writing that Organización Sanitas Internacional allow ballot boxes to be set up so that the vote could be held, but the company would not allow it. The union is currently waiting for a court ruling on an appeal it filed for the protection of its constitutional rights.

The Corporación de Fomento Asistencial del Hospital Universitario San Vicente (CORPAÚL) refused for over a year to deduct the trade union dues of employees belonging to SINTRACORPAÚL. The trade union finally managed to reclaim this right through legal action for protection of its constitutional rights.

Medellin Metro workers affiliated to SINTRAMETRO attempted to negotiate for several months, and it was only after withstanding various forms of intimidation and harassment by the company that the 640 public workers finally secured a collective agreement in April 2015. The company, however, refused to negotiate better working conditions for the official workers, 760 in total, who are also members of SINTRAMETRO and, as a result, the dispute went to the court of arbitration.

In 2015, the following trade unions experienced problems negotiating with their employers, which acted in bad faith and had no intention of negotiating or refused to negotiate the fundamental points:
• Sintravalores
• Sintrasodimac
• USTI (with Comercial y Servicios Larco)

The areas where Colombian employers have shown the strongest resistance, despite such areas being covered by collective agreements, are those related to economic items in favour of the union and the due disciplinary process with which companies exercise their position of power.

Murder of ADES trade union leader25-11-2015

On 20 November 2015, the Colombian trade union centre Central Unitaria de Trabajadores (CUT) denounced the murder of Marceli Méndez Bertel, president of the Sincelejo branch of the teachers’ union Asociación de Educadores de Sucre (ADES). The incident took place in the afternoon of 17 November when the union leader was entering her home in the municipality of Sincelejo. She was attacked by armed individuals, who shot her several times.

Attempt on life of Sintrainagro and CUT leader in Antioquia23-11-2015

On 23 November 2015, Jorge Andrés Vargas, president of the Carepa branch of Sintrainagro and head of the education department of the CUT’s Antioquia branch, suffered an attempt on his life on the road leading to the municipality of Turbo in Apartadó.

SEATECH violates right to strike12-11-2015

On 30 October 2015, the tuna fish company Seatech International halted production and closed its plant in Cartagena, Colombia, for two weeks, leaving its staff of over a 1000 people, mostly women breadwinners, without work or income during that time.

In protest at the situation, a group of 125 women, members of the food industry union Unión Sindical de Trabajadores de la Industria Alimenticia (USTRIAL) decided to stage a peaceful sit-in at the factory. Three days later, the Mobile Anti-Riot Squad, called in by the management, forcibly ousted the workers, using tear gas.

Threats from paramilitary group Águilas Negras30-10-2015

In October 2015, the “Águilas Negras” paramilitary group sent a pamphlet with a death threat to trade union centres and organisations and NGOs supporting the peace talks in Havana, Cuba, accusing them of supporting the FARC guerrilla fighters. The paramilitary group pledged, in the pamphlet, to kill the following trade union leaders, including those with body guards: Javier Betancourt; Andrés Gil; Carlos Ancízar Rico Álvarez; Guevara Robert Daza; Jaime Cortés Suárez; Eberto Díaz; Julio Roberto Gómez, president of the CGT; Jesús Elkin Rodríguez Moya, and representatives of CGT Colombia in general, as well as the members of Guardia Indígena (Indigenous Guard) and the Prensa Rural press agency.

Artifice used by textile company to counter strike 20-10-2015

On 20 September 2015, some 140 employees at Tejidos Sintéticos de Colombia S.A. (Tesicol), members of the Bucaramanga branch of the Colombian textile workers’ union SINTRATEXTIL, called a strike. The company, meanwhile, closed off the area where they had planned to install their tent with fences, metal railings, chains and padlocks. In addition, on receiving news of the workers’ decision, the management emptied the warehouses and continued to sell the company’s products from another site, which the Labour Ministry has knowledge of.

Trade unionist declared a military target by illegal armed group12-09-2015

On 12 September 2015, Armando de Oro Ibañez, president of CGT Atlántico received death threats from an illegal armed group, “Los Rastrojos”, whose members left a wreath and a pamphlet declaring the trade union leader a military target on account of the trade union work he had been engaged in.

Persecution and threats targeting Ovidio Quiroz05-09-2015

Ovidio Quiroz, president of the national executive of SINTRAVALORES, the union representing workers of the cash and valuables transportation company Prosegur, has been the victim of persecution, threats and legal attacks since 2010, when difficulties arose during collective bargaining negotiations between workers and the company, in which he was the chief negotiator. On 4 September 2015, Ovidio was once again threatened by means of a telephone call to his wife.

Eighteen trade unionists murdered in 201530-08-2015

According to the records of the three trade union centres and the ENS (National Trade Union School), by August 2015, 18 trade unionists has been murdered in Colombia:

Trade unionist Juan Esteban Preciado Valencia was murdered on 19 February 2015, in the city of Armenia, department of Quindío.

Trade union leader Raúl Ancizar Guevara Arango, president of the Marmato branch of the teachers’ union EDUCAL, was murdered on 7 March, in the municipality of Supía, department of Caldas.

On 17 March 2015, Dulver Hoyos Uchima, a member of Sidems, was murdered in the municipality of Saravena, department of Arauca.

On 8 April 2015, UTP trade union leader Edward Alexis Granados Flores was murdered in the city of Cúcuta, Norte de Santander department.

On 13 April 2015, Sintragasolina member Alexis Lizarazo Carvajal was murdered in the city of Cúcuta, Norte de Santander department.

On 15 April 2015, Viviana Barbosa Parada, a trade unionist with Sintragasolina, was murdered in the municipality of Cucutilla, Norte de Santander department.

On 4 May 2015, SINTRADECARE trade union leader, Álvaro Ramírez Montaña, was murdered in the municipality of Yopal, Casanare department.

On 12 May 2015, trade union activist Carlos Alberto Rodríguez Chacón, a member of the ADEC, was murdered in the municipality of Fusagasugá, Cundinamarca department.

On 30 May 2015, Over Libardo Rivera Rodríguez, a trade union activist with the UTP, was murdered in the municipality of Unión, Nariño department.

On 30 May 2015, trade union leader Alex Fabián Espinosa Carvajalino, who was also treasurer of the national executive of ASONAL Judicial and human rights coordinator for the Norte de Santander branch of the CUT, was murdered in the city of Cúcuta, Norte de Santander department. Despite repeated calls from human rights bodies, his request for protection measures had been denied.

On 15 June 2015, Julián Alberto Tocuma, a member of the UTP, was murdered in the municipality of Jamundí, Valle del Cauca department.

On 25 June 2015, Wilmer Vidal Angulo, a member of the UTP, was murdered in the city of Cali, Valle del Cauca department.

On 4 July 2015, Carlos Héctor Viveros Ríos, a member of SINTRAEMCALI, was murdered in the city of Cali, Valle del Cauca department.

On 6 July 2015, Pedro Cuadro Herrera, a trade union activist with ASINORT, was murdered in the city of Cúcuta, Norte de Santander department.

On 13 July 2015, Luis Miguel Antonio Claros Marín, a member of SINTRASERPUCOL, was murdered in the city of Bogotá.

On 13 July 2015, SINTRASERPUCOL trade union leader Gabriel Antonio Padilla Jiménez was murdered in the city of Bogotá.

On 28 July 2015, Francisco Antonio Estrada Rojas, a member of SINTRAEMCALI, was murdered in the city of Cali, Valle del Cauca department.

On 28 August 2015, Alexander Orozco Bolaños, a member of SINTRAEMCALI, was murdered in the city of Cali, Valle del Cauca department.

Reprisals against strikers at mining company30-08-2015

On 26 July 2015, workers affiliated to the Sindicato de Columbia Coal Company (Sintracoala) went on strike at the mine in Vereda Vachetá, in the municipality of Ubaté (Cundinamarca), as part of their protest action for better working conditions. An agreement was reached after 11 days of negotiations between the workers and the company, which committed to raise the workers’ wages. During the protest, the company called in the police, arguing that the workers were blocking the exit. A ministerial official however noted that neither the exits nor the roads were being blocked. Nevertheless, a month after reaching the agreement, the company called on the court of Cundinamarca to declare the strike illegal and to cancel the employment contracts of 64 workers. It also filed legal proceedings against 16 of them.

Threats against USO trade union leader04-08-2015

On August 2015, the ITUC was informed of the continual threats and harassment faced by Héctor Sánchez Gómez, vice president of the Community Action Board in Rubiales (municipality of Puerto Gaitán, department of Meta) and trade union leader affiliated to the Unión Sindical Obrera (USO).

According to the reports received, on 1 June 2015, at 17.30, whilst Mr Sánchez was visiting the offices of the “José Alvear Restrepo” Lawyers’ Collective (CAJAR), he received a call from a member of the Santa Helena community in Puerto Gaitán, warning him that he had been offered nine million pesos to kill him. The same man advised Mr Sánchez not to go back to his home region given the risks he faced.

In addition, on several occasions during the months of April and May 2015, Mr Sánchez was followed and photographed, while carrying out his trade union work, by individuals recognised by the community as plainclothes officers of the Criminal Investigation Branch of the National Police (SIJIN).

Right to strike undermined at Villavicencio hospital 23-07-2015

The Confederación General del Trabajo (CGT) has expressed concern at the decision of the High Court of Villavicencio, whereby the strike held on 26 May 2015 by workers at the departmental hospital of Villavicencio, to demand the payment of three months’ wage arrears, was illegal and non peaceful.

According to the court ruling, the hospital workers’ union would have to pay the hospital administration almost four billion pesos for supposed economic damages caused by the stoppage.

The leaders of the CGT have denounced the Villavicencio court ruling as an attempt to intimidate unions seeking respect for their rights, such as the timely payment of their wages.

Arbitrary arrests, threats and torture14-05-2015

On 14 May 2015, armed clashes broke out between the national army and the FARC in the rural municipality of Corinto, in Cauca. Subsequently, Lorena Castro Capaz and José Irne Solarte Henao, members of the national agricultural trade union FENSUAGRO, were detained by soldiers without justification whilst they were working. They were detained for four hours, during which the trade unionists were verbally attacked and tortured.

“Pimpineros” attacked and murdered14-04-2015

On 14 April 2015, “pimpineros” affiliated to SINTRAGASOLINA in Norte de Santander, were physically attacked and 36-year-old trade unionist José Álvaro Flórez was stabbed to death by an unknown assailant in the early hours of 14 April.

Threats against president of retail union07-04-2015

On 7 April 2015, Ingrid Katherine Puertas, president of the local branch of the Unión de Trabajadores y Trabajadoras de Grandes Superficies del Comercio en Colombia, in the municipality of Tunja, received a death threat by text message. In recent years, death threats have also been received by leaders in Bucaramanga and Fontibón, where Claudia Yanibe Pinzón received death threats over the telephone. A report was filed with the Public Prosecutor’s Office, but the pressure was such that Claudia left the company.

Trade unionists arrested for protesting against labour policies in hotel sector04-04-2015

On 4 April 2015, trade unionists Robet Julio Pacheco, Adalfredo Teran Martinez, Luis Fernando Castro Diaz, Juan Carlos Camargo Ricardo and Yonnis Alberto de Aguas Osorio were arrested for demonstrating against the labour policies of Hotel Decamerón Barú. The workers affiliated to HOCAR were staging a peaceful protest to demand respect for their right to form or join a union, job security, better wages, non discrimination at work and social security. The protest, being held on an open road leading to the hotel, was broken up by the riot police, ESMAD, who threatened and detained the participants. The trade unionists were handed over to the Public Prosecutor’s Office. After being held for 28 hours in detention, during which time they were formally charged with blocking a public thoroughfare, damage to third party property and assault of a public official, they were finally released given the lack of evidence against them.

Forced resignation or dismissal at Productos Ramo S.A.30-03-2015

On 30 March 2015, supervisors in charge of the various areas at Productos Ramo S.A. issued notifications of an obligatory meeting at the Serrezuela Country Club in the municipality of Mosquera. The people summonsed to attend the meeting, most of whom were trade union members or people with some kind of physical disability, were present on the day scheduled. Riot police (ESMAD) were posted in the surrounding area to intimidate the workers. The company had brought ten lawyers and six psychologists to the meeting to “persuade” the workers to negotiate a mutual agreement, on the pretext that the company was having financial difficulties. Of the 400 workers called to the meeting, 325 signed transaction agreements and 75 refused. One hundred and fifteen of them were members of the trade union organisation SINALTRABIMBO. The workers who refused the voluntary termination of their contracts through transaction agreements were unfairly dismissed. Nine of them were members of the trade union’s executive board. After doing away with the union, the company continued to operate as usual.

Unfair dismissals and arbitrary arrests 27-03-2015

On 27 March, the management at the oil services multinational Weatherford Colombia Limited fired over 60 employees. Workers from various parts of the country reacted to what they considered to be an arbitrary measure, as authorisation had not been received from the Labour Ministry. In the midst of this dispute, on 11 April 2015, USO trade union leader Felix Alberto Thomas Rueda, was arbitrarily arrested by the police in Barrancabermeja, Santander, whilst protesting in defence of the labour rights and freedoms of hundreds of Weatherford workers.

Threats against education trade unionists 19-03-2015

On 19 March 2015, death threats were issued to the members of the teachers’ unions Sintraunicol, Aspu and Asociación de Pensionados de la Universidad de Córdoba. The threats came as the trade union organisations were making progress with a collective reparation process for the various human and trade union rights violations they had suffered. Diógenes Ayazo, Ferly Negrete, Daniel Acosta, José Gabriel Flórez, Miguel Palomino and Stefan Romero were specifically mentioned by name in the death threats.

Threats by telephone against Sinaltrainal11-03-2015

On 11 March 2015, various executive members of the Cartagena branch of the Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores del Sistema Agroalimentario (Sinaltrainal) received threats by telephone. The threats came after the trade union filed a complaint against the repeated workers’ rights violations committed by the temporary employment company A Tiempo-Servicios Temporales SAS, including the dismissal of workers without authorization from the Labour Ministry, withholding of wages, non payment of incapacity or sick pay, non compliance with post changes issued by occupational health practitioners and improper trade union dues deductions.

Death threats and attempt on life of SINTRAGOBERNACIONES leader27-02-2015

On 23 February 2015, Lucedi Pabón, president of the Sindicato de Trabajadores del Departamento del Valle, SINTRAGOBERNACIONES, received pamphlets bearing death threats, followed by an attempt on her life on 26 February 2015. According to the trade union, the threats and attempted murder came at a time when her organisation had been promoting the defence of print workers and various cultural issues.

Attempts on lives of Sintrainagro leaders24-02-2015

On 24 February 2015, the national president of SINTRAINAGRO and member of the CUT executive, Guillermo Rivera Zapata, and the SINTRAINAGRO leader Medardo Cuesta, were the victims of a murder attempt. The incident took place in the municipality of Florida, Valle del Cauca, when the leaders took part in a trade union meeting of one of the sugar industry branches of SINTRAINAGRO in the region. Although the national police force had assigned protective measures (a vehicle, a driver and a bodyguard) to Guillermo Rivera, these were not authorised to drive from Apartadó to Florida, on the pretext of insufficient resources. The trade union leaders were, for this reason, travelling with Medardo Cuesta’s security arrangement.

Threats and attempts on lives of USO trade union leaders30-01-2015

In January 2015, USO trade union leaders and their families received threats. On 6 January, an attempt was made on the life of USO leader Oscar García Granados, in Tame, Arauca. The vehicle he was travelling in, which is part of his security arrangement, was hit by three bullets.
Carlos Emilio Rodríguez, a USO trade union activist, received written threats on 9 January, in Villavicencio, Meta.
On 11 January, Rafael Cabarcas, an advisor with the Cartagena branch of the USO, and other trade union leaders received a pamphlet declaring them military targets.
Marco Antonio Montes, leader of the Magdalena Medio branch of the USO, received a death threat on 12 January, in Puerto Boyacá, Boyacá.
Ariel Corzo and Libardo Hernández, leaders of the national executive of the USO, and John Rodríguez, president of the Centro branch of the USO, were declared military targets on 13 January in Barrancabermeja, Santander.
On 23 January, Rodolfo Valentino Prada, vice president of the Cartagena branch of the USO, suffered an attempt on his life. He had also reported acts of persecution on various occasions, including in the middle of trade union meetings.
On 25 January, Alexander Castro, head of the Centro branch of the USO, received a threat. David Mauricio Gómez, treasurer of the USO national executive, was threatened by the paramilitary group Autodefensas Gaitanistas. On 26 January, Luis Carlos López, acting president of the Centro branch of the USO, was threatened, and on 27 January, threats were issued against leader Iván Guerrero.

CUT leaders threatened24-01-2015

On 24 January 2015, various CUT trade union leaders from the Valle branch received threats, including its president, Wilson Sáenz Manchola, the general secretary, Antonio de la Cruz Gutiérrez, and head of the human rights department, Hernán Arciniegas Ladino. The leaders were accused of collaborating with the guerrilla and were ordered to leave the department. The threat was signed by the Bacrin and Águilas Negras. The threats came when the Valle branch of the CUT was acting as an advisor in the collective bargaining negotiations being conducted by Sintraemcali, Sintraunicol and Sintrainac. The Valle branch of the CUT is also involved in supporting and defending the rights of vulnerable communities.


Rafael Rodríguez, branch treasurer of the Unión Sindical Obrera (USO) and the union’s representative in the negotiations being held with the oil company Ecopetrol, was arrested on 21 July 2014, at Yariguíes airport in the city of Barrancabermeja. Rafael Rodríguez explained that when going through airport security before taking the plane to Bogota, where he was going to take part in negotiations, a hand grenade was found in his hand luggage. He had no idea how the device found its way into his luggage. He claimed that it was placed in his luggage to frame him. Rafael Rodríguez had been the victim of an attack by hired assassins in 2013. Having failed to meet their objective on that occasion, this criminal ploy is another attempt to harm him and his reputation by trying to make him look like a criminal, to delegitimise his trade union work and to obstruct the progress of the collective bargaining process underway.

Anti-union collective pact at Aguas Capital07-07-2014

When the private company Aguas Capital acquired the public water and sewage system of Cúcuta, there was hope among the workers that their working conditions would be improved. Their pay, however, decreased by between 10 and 15%. And the situation continued in the same vein during the following years.

Then came the legal troubles of the Nule brothers, the majority shareholders of Aguas Capital, which ran into many difficulties as a result. It managed to overcome these difficulties, but the workers were left with even more precarious conditions. Twenty five workers consequently decided to organise as a trade union to fight for their rights. They set up a branch of the Sindicato de Trabajadores y Empleados de Servicios Públicos Domiciliarios de Norte de Santander, affiliated to the CTC. Its membership soon rose to a hundred.

The union representatives presented a collective bargaining proposal, but the company not only refused to negotiate it but closed the doors to them, forbid them from giving out information or posting notices. They were stigmatised, explains Jonathan Díaz, the union’s vice president. It also dismissed 20 temporary workers, for simply mixing with people from the union.

Strike action was not possible, given that it is a public service, so the union took the dispute to the Court of Arbitration, but the company did everything possible to delay the process. In light of this, the union submitted the case to the Committee for Handling Cases referred to the ILO (CETCOIT), and managed to have the company agree to collective bargaining negotiations. A collective agreement was signed, covering the 110 unionised workers, in November 2013. One of its main achievements was to secure rates of pay above the legal minimum wage at Aguas Capital Cúcuta.

Just a few days later, however, the company held a big campaign in favour of the collective pact for non-unionised workers, arguing that they would enjoy the same advantages as under the collective agreement but without having to pay union dues. The pact was, in fact, a carbon copy of the collective agreement, barring a few titles that were changed.

The union adopted a wait and see policy, observing the reaction to the pact, to avoid any conflict between the workers. The company failed to comply with certain clauses of the pact, giving rise to dissatisfaction among the workers. The union seized the opportunity to convince one of the pact’s leaders to join the union, which he did, and publically withdrew from the pact in spite of the pressure placed on him. He even received threatening calls at work, warning him to leave the union. The union’s treasurer was also followed and threatened.

As of that moment, the balance of power changed and following a strong campaign the union managed to convince large numbers of workers to leave the pact and join the union. It now has 295 members, which represents more than a third of the company’s employees. Having achieving the status of a majority union, the pact was defeated and the collective agreement now covers all the workers. It also succeeded in putting an end to the fixed-term contracts, and all the workers at Aguas Capital Cúcuta now have permanent contracts.

Collective pact used to bust trade union at BBVA07-07-2014

The Spanish bank BBVA inherited the collective pact drawn up by Gran Ahorrar, following the merger between the two banks in 2005. It also inherited the collective agreement managed by three trade unions: ACEB (the largest and the oldest of the three), UNEB and SintraBBVA (company-level union), which had a combined membership of 2,500 at the time, out of a total workforce of 5,200. The collective agreement therefore applied to all the staff at the bank.

Following the merger, the bank modernised and improved its technological platform, which gave rise to staff cuts and a change in labour policy. The workload increased and the bank concluded large numbers of “voluntary” agreements to free itself of the longest-serving employees, in addition to those fired as a result of stricter disciplinary procedures. It managed, in this way, to rid itself of 600 workers, most of them unionised, according to María Consuelo Bautista of the national executive of the ACEB.

“The unionised workers were presented with two options: they could benefit from an additional 20% in severance pay for agreeing to leave the bank or be dismissed in any case with no more than the statutory severance pay. Many therefore opted to accept the deal and leave. What’s more, the office managers were given bonuses if they managed to get rid of union members,” explains Bautista.

At the same time, the bank launched a policy of subcontracting staff through temporary employment agencies. As a result, eight years on, almost a third of the staff in the various areas of the BBVA’s financial business is subcontracted.

As a result of all this, the union was left with less than a third of the employees, and the company was able to impose a collective pact. This took place in April 2006, when a group of workers was called to sign documents with a view to renewing the pact, in a blatant move to undermine the union," explains María Consuelo Bautista.

And the strategy worked: the unions that, a few years ago, had a combined membership representing the majority of the staff now only represent a minority. Eighty per cent of the bank’s staff is covered by the collective pact and the rest by collective agreement, which, moreover, offers fewer benefits than the pact. In addition, the bank awards a variety of assessment-based bonuses that can add up to $3 million a year. But the assessments are subjective and biased, as the workers who belong to the union are poorly assessed and never receive bonuses, explains Bautista. Those covered by the pact also receive better education and maternity allowances.

People stay in the union because they are committed to the fight, and because the collective agreement has one advantage that the pact does not: stability, thanks to a clause that dates back to before 1990, establishing that fair dismissal must be proved before a court. The bank wanted to eliminate this clause during the negotiation of the agreement in 2009, but the three unions united to defend it.

“In some dismissal cases, however, the courts have ruled in the company’s favour,” adds Bautista. “In other words, they are taking the stability advantage away from us though legal channels, whatever the cost.”

There is, however, a great deal of anxiety among the members of the pact, who are under increasing pressure to improve their performance and meet ever-higher targets, under threat of sanctions or dismissal. There is less pressure of this kind on the union members, which is a good reason to leave the pact and join the union.

Another issue denounced by the union is that the rules set out in the Substantive Labour Code were not followed during the renewal of the collective pact (2013-2015 period). The company paid a polling company to determine the viability of the pact, and did not follow the prior complaint procedure. It simply called on the workers to elect their representatives and signed the new pact with them.

Collective pact used to bust trade union at Ecopetrol07-07-2014

“Agreement 01 of 1977” is the name of a benefits plan for non-unionised workers at Ecopetrol that has been in place for 37 years. It is, in fact, the equivalent of a collective pact, in the sense that it is a benefits scheme that differs from that established under the collective agreement.

“I call it a de facto pact, as it has never been negotiated with the workers and it does not comply with the procedures set out by the Substantive Labour Code,” says Edwin Palma, vice president of USO. “It is an agreement drawn up by Ecopetrol’s Board of Directors, setting more beneficial labour conditions for workers who do not unionise. That’s why USO’s membership within Ecopetrol has not grown. Trade union members account for less than a third of the total workforce. The only reason we are strong now is because around 20,000 of the 30,000 subcontracted workers within Ecopetrol’s various subsidiaries are currently affiliated to the USO.”

Agreement 01 covers over 6,000 workers whilst the collective agreement only covers around 3,000. “But the strange thing is that these 6,000 workers are supposedly supervisory, managerial and executive employees, meaning that they account for double the number of operational workers, which is absurd,” adds Palma.

As a rule, every time there is a collective bargaining round with the USO, the benefits in the Agreement are changed. The company includes what is negotiated with the USO in the Agreement, sometimes improving on it so that the terms are better than those in the collective agreement. The Agreement, for example, contains a number of more attractive benefits, such as courses abroad, study grants or subsidies, etc. “It is a tool that seriously affects the unionisation rate at Ecopetrol,” adds the union leader.

In light of this, the national executive of the USO decided, this year, to take legal action to put an end to Agreement 01 and thus guarantee freedom of association at Ecopetrol. To be able to exercise this right, the union needs to unionise over a third of the workers.

The challenge is to win over the 6,000 non-unionised workers who, under the guise of being supervisory and managerial employees, are seeing their labour rights being undermined on many levels, suffering abuses such as harassment and an ever-increasing workload, etc. “We have been supporting these workers over the last four months and are achieving high membership rates,” concludes Palma Egea. The USO, he adds, is also interested in promoting lawsuits against two other oil industry companies with collective pacts: Terpel and Wadford, both with USO members.

Collective pact used to bust trade union at Ave Colombiana07-07-2014

Ave Colombiana is a company producing electrical goods. It was found by an Italian 50 years ago and is currently owned by his sons. Its production facilities are located on Via Zipaquirá-Nemocón, where it employs 150 workers, 28 of whom are members of Sintrabel and the Zipaquirá branch of the industrial trade union Sintrametal.

In 2005, when the company was in difficulty and filed for bankruptcy, the unionised workers made a commendable gesture, freezing the benefits under the collective agreement in order to save the company and their jobs. In 2009, however, exploiting the internal divisions in the union, the company imposed a collective pact on the non-unionised workers, offering the same benefits as the collective agreement.

This dealt a hard blow to the trade union, according to John Fredy González, president of Sintrametal Zipaquirá, as many members left the union and yielded to the pact, given that they could enjoy the same benefits as under the collective agreement without having to pay union dues.

At the same time, the company started to pressure and harass the unionised workers. Anyone not covered by the legal protection afforded to trade union representatives was dismissed. González himself suffered persecution and harassment on assuming the presidency of the trade union.

“My colleagues are afraid of taking on leadership roles in the union, but not me. I’m studying law for this reason. I know the laws and I already have more tools to defend myself and the union,” he says.

The collective bargaining negotiations came to an end in February. As no agreement was reached, the dispute is currently being handled by the Court of Arbitration.

Anti-union collective pact at Colpensiones07-07-2014

Colpensiones is a state-owned industrial and commercial company attached to the Ministry of Labour and Finance, set up in 2011 to administer the pensions system, which was previously administered by the Social Security Institute. It started out with 60 employees, but a year later it hired 1,100 workers across the country. Most of them were former employees of the Social Security Institute and the National Social Security Fund (Cajanal).

A collective pact was established at the same time, but without following the procedures established by law, that is, without holding a workers’ assembly or negotiations. The company simply had each new employee sign the pact as a voluntary agreement between the employer and the worker. It included a note explicitly stating that anyone joining a trade union would lose the benefits granted under the pact, which included a bonus paid in June, a productivity bonus and two additional leave days.

The 1,100 employees were not able to cope with the huge workload there has been at Colpensiones since the very beginning, given the inaccuracy of its forecasts: the company had expected to receive between 80,000 and 100,000 files (pension applications) but received almost 300,000. Moreover, the IT application implemented did not work properly. As a result, the employees’ workload and overtime hours (which have not yet been paid) were increased, and the working week was extended to include Saturdays and even Sundays, with the threat of dismissal for anyone failing to show up. In addition, 600 people were hired on fixed-term contracts through a temporary work agency to carry out the same duties as the rest of the staff, but without any job security.

In light of the situation, a group of 30 mostly young workers met in secret, in July 2013, to form a company-level trade union, Sintracolpensiones, which has managed to expand its membership thanks to the support and advice provided by the CUT. It currently has 99 members, according to Johnny Erazo, a labour law student who is part of the union’s executive committee.

The company recognised the union and has engaged in dialogue with it, changing its position with regard to compulsory overtime and the obligation to work Saturdays. The level of harassment and dismissals has diminished, but the company is not moving forward with the negotiation of the list of collective bargaining demands presented by the union in February, which include granting unionised workers the same benefits as those enjoyed under the collective pact, as well as the levelling of pay rates within the company, given that there are employees doing the same job but with a wage difference of almost a million pesos.

The collective pact has not been reviewed as the workers covered by it have not had an opportunity to meet and discuss it, and simply accept what the employer imposes on them. “Our goal is to become a majority union within two or three years so that we can defeat the pact. But this will depend on what happens in the negotiations we are holding,” added Johnny Erazo.

Collective pact used to bust trade union at Bimbo07-07-2014

Bimbo, the Mexican multinational producing bread and baked goods, came to Colombia 18 years ago. It has factories in Tenjo (Cundinamarca), Cali and Soledad (Atlántico).

The company-level union representing Bimbo workers, Sintrabimbo, was formed in 2005, by 25 of the 400 workers employed by the company at the time (it now employs 3,300). According to its president, Máximo Zamora Ruiz, the union was established in response to the company’s labour policy to cut costs: compulsory excessive working hours and unpaid overtime, hiring of new workers paid the minimum wage whilst existing employees earned more, the dismissal of workers with five or more years of service without following the dismissal procedure, and other irregularities.

Within a few months, the trade union had 90 members, but the company offered bribes and convinced half of them to leave the union. Members without the legal protection covering union representatives were dismissed. The harassment was so fierce that, for fear of being left with less than 25 members (the minimum required to operate), they joined the CGT-affiliated union representing hotel, tourism and food industry workers.

A month after forming the union, and just as it was embarking on the procedures for the negotiation of the first collective agreement, the company drew up a benefits plan for non-union members, offering them gifts, mainly household appliances, which discouraged the workers from joining the union. Six months later, whilst the negotiation of the collective agreement was still underway, the company brought together the non-unionised workers and had them sign a collective pact, granting them certain benefits, on the condition that they would not join the union.

Finally, the collective agreement was signed but the terms and conditions were the same as those in the collective pact. This was a hard blow for the union, which went on to lose 34 members, leaving it with only 19. They then sought protection from another trade union, as there had been difficulties with the CGT-affiliated one. They affiliated with the UTA (Unión Trabajadora de Alpina) and presented a list of collective bargaining demands, which ended up at the Court of Arbitration following the company’s refusal to enter into negotiations. Whilst the arbitration award was being determined, the company withdrew the benefits granted under the pact from the 19 unionised workers and froze their wages. This situation lasted for two years, by the end of which the union was left with only seven members, who were totally discriminated against by the company and the rest of the workers.

The union subsequently filed for protection, claiming the right to equality and freedom of association; a court in the municipality of Tenjo ruled in the trade union’s favour. The second hearing was also favourable, and Bimbo was ordered to equalise the rights of the pact and to settle all the amounts not paid to the unionised workers. More members were attracted to the union thanks to this victory. Having reached a membership of over 25, they decided to “resuscitate” the company-level union. Sinaltrabimbo was formed in September 2011 and presented a list of collective bargaining demands, which the company agreed to negotiate, but set the terms and conditions of the collective pact as the ceiling.

Sinaltrabimbo now has 200 members and is preparing to submit its collective bargaining proposal. The negotiation will not be easy, given the imposition of the pact as a “ceiling”.

Collective pacts used to undermine trade unions07-07-2014

Collective pacts are used by companies to weaken trade unions or prevent their formation. In 2013, 204 collective pacts were filed with the Labour Ministry. An average of 190 pacts per year have been negotiated over the last decade.

Trade unions were in the process of negotiating collective bargaining agreements at twenty per cent of the companies signing collective pacts in 2013. The prospects for trade unions in this context are very grim, as members are harassed and discriminated against. At best, they secure exactly the same benefits through collective bargaining as those given to the workers signing the pact, with the difference that the unionised workers have to pay union dues and those benefiting from the pact do not.

Although the numbers of collective agreements signed and workers benefitting from them increased during the first three years (2010-2013) of the Santos government, collective bargaining continues to form a negligible part of the country’s labour relations system. Only 9.3% of workers affiliated to family compensation funds are covered by some form of collective agreement.

As regards the number of companies with some kind of collective agreement (1,449), the rate is as low as 0.4%. Furthermore, only half of these collective agreements are negotiated with genuine trade unions and workers that have a degree of autonomy in these negotiations.

Assassination attempt against Sinaltrainal leader18-06-2014

José Onofre Esquivel, vice president the Bugalagrande branch of Sinaltrainal, was the target of an attack by hit men on motorbikes on 17 June 2014 in Medellin. He came out of the attack unharmed.

The bodyguard assigned to protect the trade union leader returned fire, killing one of the attackers and injuring another one, who was detained. Two others managed to flee. A bus driver who happened to be passing by was shot in the leg.

Assassination attempt against general secretary of CUT Bolívar19-05-2014

Trade union leader Luis Alberto Plazas Vélez came out of an assassination attempt uninjured, thanks to the timely reaction of his bodyguard.

Plazas Vélez is a teacher, a member of the Sindicato Único de Educadores de Bolívar, and has been the general secretary of CUT Bolívar for six years. He is also known for heading the drive to organise and mobilise Cartagena’s informal economy workers, grouped within UGTI Bolívar.

The incident took place on 16 May 2014 in Cartagena. One of the hit men, who carried out the attack from a motorbike, was killed in the return fire, reportedly hit in the chest by a bullet fired by the bodyguard defending the trade union leader.

Another palm trade unionist murdered15-05-2014

The National Executive of the Sindicato de Trabajadores de la Industria Agropecuaria (SINTRAINAGRO) has denounced the murder, on 9 May 2014, of Tomás Rodríguez Cantillo, of the workers’ and negotiating committee at the Candelaria y Arrocera palm plantation owned by Emma Perfecta Lacouture. The murder was committed amid efforts by workers belonging to SINTRAINAGRO to move forward with the negotiation of their collective bargaining proposals.

Union denounces Agroban for anti-union practices06-05-2014

In April 2014, the Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Industria Agropecuaria (SINTRAINAGRO) decided to take strike action at Agroban, in the Urabá region, after the management at the company signed a collective agreement with a minority union, disregarding the prior agreement signed by the genuine labour representative.

The trade union released a communiqué denouncing the irresponsible attitude of Claudia Argotes, the legal representative of Agroban SAS, Las Chelas plantation, after she signed a collective agreement with a union named SINTRACOL, despite the agreement already in force with SINTRAINAGRO, the organisation representing the majority of the workers at the company.

According to SINTRAINAGRO, Agroban is seeking to weaken the terms of the agreement in force, violating collective bargaining regulations and Government Decree 89 of 2014.

Black communities leader murdered in Choco25-04-2014

Jesús Adán Quintó was one of the leaders in the fight for the land rights of the black communities in the Middle and Lower Atrato River area, a member of the departmental human rights desk and human rights secretary of the Choco branch of the CGT. Despite the known threats against Jesús Adán, the National Protection Unit (UNP) had reduced the protection measures put in place for him.

The CGT had, on several occasions, requested that the body re-establish these measures, but received no response. The community and trade union leader was murdered on 9 April 2014 in the municipality of Turbo in the Urabá region of Antioquia.

In an interview given days before his death, Jesús Adán Quinto said that he felt threatened and feared for his safety, having already faced several attempts on his life. He also made serious accusations related to the drug trafficking operations in the Urabá region.

Major Public Sector union suffers bombing17-04-2014

On April 16, 2014, incendiary bombs were thrown at the headquarters of SINTRAEMCALI, the public sector union in Cali, Colombia. The attack comes just days after a major court decision on April 11, which ordered Colombia President Juan Manuel Santos and Vice President Angelino Garzón to ask forgiveness for crimes committed against SINTRAEMCALI, SINTRAUNICOL, and SINTRATELEFONOS unions during the government of former president Alvaro Uribe.

In the early hours of 21 May 2014, the vehicle of SINTRAEMCALI vice president, José Reyes, was set on fire. The trade union leader, on seeing what was happening, tried to put out the fire and suffered second-degree burns to his arms and legs.

SINTRAEMCALI has been especially targeted by paramilitary groups for its organizing in the wake of a mass firing of Cali public sector workers in 2004. In the decade since, at least 15 members of SINTRAEMCALI have been forced into exile, 8 killed, and over 100 more threatened. The union was also the target of “Operation Dragon,” a government-backed assassination plot against then-SINTRAEMCALI President—and current senator—Alexander Lopez Maya and other human rights defenders in the region. The trial against several members of the Colombian armed forces is currently ongoing.

Prosegur uses threats to impose “collective pact”19-03-2014

In March 2014, the Spanish multinational Prosegur once again imposed a “collective pact" by bribing and threatening the workers. Two million pesos was the amount offered on this occasion to any unionised worker agreeing to renounce the union and the collective bargaining agreement and to accept the so-called collective pact renewed by the company in December 2013.

The company was denounced by Fidel Hugo Alfonso, president of SINTRAVALORES, the union representing Prosegur workers at company level. The union leader filed a report with the Public Prosecutor’s Office, calling on it to prosecute the company’s legal representative for violating the right to organise, which is an offence under the penal code. He also filed an administrative complaint with the Labour Ministry, accusing the company of discriminatory treatment, hindering the right to organise and contravening the collective agreement.

Trade unionists at Worldtex Caribe receive death threats06-03-2014

On 2 March 2014, employees at Worldtex Caribe, a textile company with a staff of over 400 workers located in La Candelaria export processing zone, in Mamonal, Cartagena, denounced the death threats against the presidents and three other members of SINTRATEXTIL and ASTRATEC, the two trade unions at the firm.

A pamphlet was left in one of the trade unionist’s pigeonholes at the company. The threats were issued following a peaceful demonstration by the workers, held in protest at the pay rise of only 1.94% for 2014 and company’s refusal to address the list of demands presented in March 2013.

Attempted grenade attack on trade union leader11-02-2014

On 10 February 2014, the Confederación General del Trabajo (CGT) condemned the attempt on the life of Elsa María Páez, who is an executive member of the CGT and the Unión de Trabajadores Penitenciarios del Inpec (UPT).

The incident took place at 10 pm on 9 February, when her security guards detected a high-impact grenade hidden inside a chicken on the roof of her vehicle. The explosive was found as Elsa was preparing to settle down for the night with her young child at their home in the centre of the city. Thanks to the speed and precision of the action taken by the experts from the National Protection Unit (Unidad Nacional de Protección), the grenade did not cause any damage or injuries.

The trade union leader has been threatened on a number of occasions and was issued with a death threat over a year ago.

Threats against SINTRACARBON leaders in Riohacha24-01-2014

The president and the treasurer of the National Executive of the Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Industria del Carbón (SINTRACARBON) in the municipality of Riohacha, in the department of La Guajira, received repeated threats against themselves and their families between July 2012 and January 2013. The threats were issued whilst the two leaders were on the committee representing the union in the collective bargaining process with Carbones del Cerrejón Limited. According to the union, the intimidation sought to limit SINTRACARBON’s actions and demands aimed at defending the workers’ rights and developing the region. The leaders requested protective measures but did not receive an adequate, coherent and effective response to their individual requirements.

Death threats against trade union leader in Bucaramanga24-01-2014

The departmental president of the Asociación Santandereana de Servidores Públicos (ASTDEMP) in the municipality of Bucaramanga, department of Santander, has been the target of ongoing threats.
On 8 April 2013, an envelope was found at the trade union head office with a message declaring her a military target and a public enemy. They also sent her two dolls representing her two daughters. One was without an arm and the other without a leg; their faces and bodies were splattered with red paint. The threat was signed by the paramilitary group Comando Urbano de los Rastrojos. Although measures are already in place to protect the trade union leader, she has requested that they also be extended to her daughters but has not yet received a response.

Peasant leader killed in Galapa24-01-2014

Narciso Beltrán, a member of the Asociación de Trabajadores del Campo (ASOTRACAMPO), a farm workers’ organisation affiliated to the Federación Agraria Nacional (FANAL), which is a CGT affiliate, was murdered on 12 April 2013 in the municipality of Galapa, in Atlántico.

Narciso Beltrán had been forcibly displaced and his work was partly focused on the fight for land restitution. He was allegedly killed by the Anti Land Restitution Army (Ejército Anti Restitución de Tierras), an illegal armed group made up of land owners linked to drug trafficking and paramilitarism. His father is the vice president of ASOTRACAMPO.

The association’s work includes the representation of over 130 families that have been occupying a section of El Tamarindo farm since 2001 and the defence of land rights through fair restitution.

According to Amnesty International, the peasant farmers occupying El Tamarindo have been receiving repeated threats from paramilitary groups. It reports that on 9 April a peasant farmer was told: “You are going to leave this place one way or another, this land has an owner”.

Teacher killed in Bolívar24-01-2014

Leonardo García Morera, a member of the teachers’ union Sindicato Único de Trabajadores de la Educación del Valle (SUTEV), was murdered on 13 February 2013 in the municipality of Bolívar, in Valle del Cauca.
Leonardo began teaching in the state education sector a few years ago and taught primary school children at El Naranjal Educational Institute, Benjamín Agredo headquarters, in El Catre, in the municipality of Bolívar, in Valle.
He disappeared at midday on 13 February and his body was found later that night. The teacher was doing social work with the Embera indigenous community and, shortly before his murder, had organised resources with an international organisation to continue with this work. Following his murder, one of the head teachers at the institute where he worked commented that Leonardo and other teachers had received threats, which had been reported to the Public Prosecutor’s Office.

Anti-union practices at La Cabaña sugar mill24-01-2014

La Cabaña sugar mill refused to formalise its employment relationship with its workers by continuing to hire them through intermediaries. It also refused to recognise the branch union of the Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Industria Agropecuaria (Sintrainagro) and to discuss the collective bargaining proposal submitted by the union in December 2012. Threats were also made against workers and their families. On 3 January 2013, La Cabaña dismissed 86 workers, including the members of the union’s executive board. Workers affiliated to the union received threats and, on 28 January, trade union activist Juan Carlos Pérez Muñoz was murdered in the municipality of Corinto, in Cauca. In March 2013, some 400 sugarcane workers affiliated to Sintrainagro declared a strike at La Cabaña.

Trade union leader attacked by security forces15-01-2014

On 10 January 2014 workers of the hydroelectric Caldas-CHEC (Central Hidroeléctrica de Caldas) – members of SINTRAELECOL-CUT, an IndustriALL Global Union affiliate – conducted a demonstration demanding the right to implement their Collective Agreement. The demonstrators also denounced the abuses committed by the Empresas Públicas de Medellín (EPM) against the communities in Caldas.

Demonstrators were violently attacked and beaten by the Escuadrón Móvil Antidisturbios, using explosive devices; one of these explosives seriously injured several workers and their families. Among them, the President of CUT and SINTRAELECOL-Caldas, Arturo Oscar OROZCO, who is still in hospital in a very serious condition, suffering critical injuries to his eyes. Reports say that Arturo Orozco has lost his left eye, and that doctors are struggling to save his right eye and to reconstruct his face.

This is fourth attack on Oscar Orozco’s life, who has suffered persecution by the security and justice agencies of the Colombian state and in particular by the Attorney General’s Office. Deliberately ignoring his role as a trade union and community leader, the Attorney General’s Office has attempted to convict Oscar Orozco claiming that he has staged “self- attacks”.

Colombian brewery union leader assassinated15-01-2014

Ever Luis Marín Rolong, a regional leader of the SINALTRACEBA brewery workers union was murdered on 4 January 2014 by unknown gunmen who fired at him six times as he was waiting for a bus in the town of Soledad. The next day the President of SINALTRACEBA, Rafael Maldonado Gamboa, received death threats from paramilitaries while the union was holding its General Assembly.

USO trade union leader arrested13-12-2013

On 2 November 2013, the vice president of the Unión Sindical Obrera (USO), Darío Cárdenas Pachón, was arrested in Villavicencio, Meta, on charges of obstructing public highways, damaging natural resources and causing intentional damage to property.
The USO insisted that his arrest was a setup, aimed at preventing the free exercise of trade union activities, and has been combined with a leafleting campaign, slander and threats against trade union leaders and their families.

Anti-union policy at BioFilm13-12-2013

On 9 November 2013, the trade union organisation SINTRABIOFILM denounced the systematic persecution and obstruction of trade union activity and representation at BIOFILM S.A. The union reported that the company refuses to negotiate collective bargaining demands and that trade union leaders have received threats from criminal groups.

President of the CUT in Caldas escapes attempt on his life10-12-2013

IndustriALL Global Union condemns the attack on Óscar Arturo Orozco, president of the Caldas branch of the union central CUT and the electrical workers’ union SINTRAELECOL and calls on its affiliates to take solidarity action.

The attack took place when Óscar Orozco was driving home on the night of 13 November. The car window was hit by bullets and Orozco suffered cuts to the neck and the left hand. Immediately after the attack, Orozco reported the attack to the Public Prosecutor’s Office and requested a ballistics report on the car.

Oscar Orozco said: “this regrettable event is the latest in a series of attacks we have denounced in recent months and we hold the government responsible for our physical integrity and lives. We demand that these attacks be investigated and those responsible are quickly brought to justice”.

Orozco is a prominent social and trade union activist in the department of Caldas and has suffered four attacks in recent years, including letter bombs. On 4 August 2012, the CUT Caldas president and secretaries were victims of an attack while en route to a meeting of fisherfolk and miners in the district of Arauca. No attempt was made to examine the vehicle they were in or to investigate what happened. “One year later, the prosecutor did a U-turn and charged the victims themselves on the basis of what must certainly be false-positive test results. We call on supporters to follow this case because it seems that having escaped an attempt on their lives, the victims face the prospect of being put behind bars by the prosecutor and the Defender of the People”, said a spokesperson for the union.

Mining trade union leader threatened17-10-2013

In October 2013, the Escuela Nacional Sindical de Colombia denounced threats made against the President of the Zaragoza branch of the Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Industria Minera, Petroquímica, Agrocombustibles y Energética (Sintramienergética), Fredy Urrutia. The threats began at the beginning of June during a strike called by the union when talks failed regarding a salary increase and better health and transport conditions with the Operadora Minera SAS, part of the Colpatria group.

Hunger strike by Nestlé workers17-10-2013

On 10 October 2013, workers at Nestlé and members of the Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores del Sistema Agroalimentario (Sinaltrainal) chained themselves together in front of the factory in Bugalagrande and began a hunger strike calling on the multinational to implement the collective agreement and to respect the dignity of the workers and the trade union.

Trade unionist murdered in Cali17-10-2013

On Friday 27 September, Fernando Florez Viveros was murdered in his home in the Simón Bolívar area of Cali city. Viveros was President of the SINDOEPAL trade union, an affiliate of CTC Valle.

Anti-union practices at Pacific Rubiales Energy24-09-2013

On the 30th of May, the Unión Sindical Obrera (USO) filed a suit against the multinational oil company Pacific Rubiales Energy. According to the union, the company has systematically violated the trade union rights of oil workers in the municipality of Puerto Gaitán. More than 3000 workers affiliated with USO were fired for organizing a strike to demand better working conditions.
Furthermore, according various testimonies, the company demands a proof that workers renounced their affiliation with USO in order to worker for oil companies based in Puerto Gaitán.

Prosegur brings criminal charges against trade unionists31-08-2013

In August 2013, the multinational Prosegur brought criminal charges against eight trade unionists and demanded that they pay 500,000 USD in compensation. The workers charged were Fidel Alfonso, President of Sintravalores and seven leaders of the organisation’s branch in Medellín, who have been accused of slander by two Prosegur executives following some expressions used during a protest meeting. Two of them have also been accused of causing damage to third-party property, for allegedly painting slogans on the walls.

Arrest of CUT trade union leader25-08-2013

On 25 August 2013, trade union leader Hubert de Jesús Ballesteros Gómez was arrested. The union leader is an executive member of the CUT-Colombia, affiliated to the ITUC and the TUCA, and was arrested within the context of the national agricultural strike.

Drummond does not respect the right to strike19-08-2013

On 19 August 2013, the Central Unitaria de Trabajadores de Colombia (CUT) condemned the attempt by the multinational Drummond to break the strike being carried out by workers, in particular those who are members of the SINTRAMIENERGETICA trade union. A trade union statement condemned the labour authorities’ “complicity” with the company. Two senior managers at the multinational called a vote to put an end to the strike, with the approval of the Ministry of Labour, without taking into account that the strike had been called by the trade unions at Drummond and that it was taking place within the framework set out by the Constitution, the labour laws and international conventions.

Dismissals of trade union leaders from Emdisalud13-08-2013

On 13 August 2013, the Confederación General del Trabajo (CGT) condemned violations by the mutual healthcare company EmdiSalud EPS-S in Tunja, following the mass dismissals of workers and trade union leaders in retaliation for the presentation of a list of demands.

Medellín’s Metro refuses to negotiate with workers31-07-2013

The Metro in Medellin took a month and a half to agree to negotiate with the recently created trade union. In July 2013, of the 48 demands that SINTRAMETRO presented to them for negotiation they only agreed to negotiate two points, both related to legal rights which were not being implemented. The company inflated the cost of the demands to rule them out.

Anti-trade union harassment of sugar cane cutters31-07-2013

In July 2013, the Risaralda company, which belongs to the same group as Incauca and Providencia, began a campaign of anti-trade harassment against over 400 sugar cane cutters, threatening them with dismissals. Making use of its dominant position, the company incited its subcontractors PROCAÑA SAS, MATECAÑA SAS and the trade union organisation SINTRAIDUBAL to oblige their workers to join this trade union and warned that if they failed to do so their contracts would not be renewed.

Coca Cola tries to weaken collective bargaining26-07-2013

On 26 July 2013, the Coca Cola bottling plant in Medellín dismissed 132 subcontracted workers, 18 of whom were trade unionists. The Sinaltrainal trade union condemned the dismissals, which were designed to ensure that the workers could not negotiate the list of demands and the company could continue to put pressure on their wages.

Attack on taxi drivers staging a peaceful demonstration03-07-2013

On 3 July 2013, 16 taxi drivers who are members of the SNTT (Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores del Transporte) were assaulted and arrested by police during a peaceful demonstration in Cartagena, Colombia.

Colpapel Kimberly did not want to negotiate with the trade union30-06-2013

In June 2013, after the direct bargaining stage had been exhausted in the negotiations between the newly established trade union Sintrapulcar-Tocancipá and the American multinational Colpapel Kimberly, workers voted to go to the Court of Arbitration. The vote took place in four factories that the company has in the country and significant pressure was put on workers to vote for arbitration, as a strategy to break the trade union.

Interference by employers and anti-union discrimination31-03-2013

The telecommunications giant, Claro, is well known for its union busting activities in Colombia. At Comcel, a branch of the conglomerate, there is no trade union. In Telmex-Colombia, also part of the Claro group, the union (SintraTelmex) has only 190 affiliated workers. Despite the fragile situation of SintraTelmex, the company has implemented a series of anti-union measures including the dismissals of union leaders.

After being ordered to reinstate workers unlawfully dismissed for creating a union, Fundación Universitaria San Martín reinstated them in junior positions and separate from each other in the campus.

Anti-union harassment at Flexo Spring31-03-2013

In March 2013, the Federación Nacional de Trabajadores de la Industria de las Artes Gráficas, Papeleros y Afines (Fenalgrap) denounced the anti-union harassment against the Sindicato de Trabajadores de Flexo Spring S.A.S (Sintraflexospring). Fenalgrap stated that since the setting up of the organisation, the company has been pursuing a campaign of harassment and pressure against the organised workers and attempting to stop further workers from joining the organisation.

Refusal to bargain in good faith at Sodimac31-01-2013

In January 2013, when retail workers at Sodimac – a distributor of building materials – created a union (Sintrasodimac), the company immediately began a policy of harassment as well as attempting to impose a parallel collective agreement in a bid to pressure workers to leave the union.

Violation of collective agreement30-11-2012

In the town of Pereira, in November 2012, six Multiservicios workers– a municipal company in liquidation – started a hunger strike to prevent the dismissal of 200 workers in violation of their collective agreement.

Tecsa refuses to negotiate the workers’ list of demands31-08-2012

In August 2012, in Buenaventura Port, Tecsa, a subcontractor of the Sociedad Portuaria, refused to negotiate the demands presented by the port workers’ union Unión Portuaria, calling for equal rights in terms of wages and direct contracts for workers employed via intermediary companies for over five years. Tesca dismissed 117 subcontracted workers who had called for direct hire; all were African-Colombians and union members.

Murder of trade unionists31-07-2012

At least 18 unionists where killed in Colombia and 359 received death threats in 2012.

In July 2012, Eder Tomás Cárdenas Chitiva, a union leader of SINDISPETROL, was murdered in the town of Paratebueno, Cundinamarca. He was part of a group of workers of the Spanish group Masa Acciona, who staged permanent assembly to press for the initiation of negotiations. According to union representatives, since the beginning of the permanent assembly, workers have begun to receive death threats from criminal armed groups.

Repeated failure to comply with ILO recommendations31-12-2010

There is no legal tool to ensure compliance with the recommendations of the ILO’s supervisory bodies. It is up to the goodwill of the government to take the necessary measures to prevent or overcome violations of the trade union rights conventions. Trade union organisations will again have to initiate legal proceedings to seek compliance with ILO recommendations. In the case of the Red Cross workers’ union, Sintracruzroja Colombia, which submitted a complaint to the ILO Committee on Freedom of Association in 2004, legal proceedings were taken against the government’s failure to comply. The government has been awaiting a final ruling from the Supreme Court since 31 March 2009.

Exercising the right to strike as a trade union and social act31-12-2010

The increase in protest action by non-unionised and informal sector workers seen in previous years continues. This action has involved drivers, including lorry drivers and dump truck drivers, moto-taxi drivers, footballers, the 2000 recyclers who protested in Bogota, informal vendors and traders in various Colombian cities, informal sector petrol vendors and porters in border regions near Venezuela. In Medellin and its surrounding area alone, there were 15 protests by urban bus drivers over constant extortion and the violations of their life, liberty and personal safety.

The strike in February at the DPA-Nestlé milk multinational (formerly Cicolac, also run by Nestlé) by about 140 workers lasted for 40 days and was in protest at the company’s refusal to reach a settlement on a list of demands presented in December 2009. The strike was accompanied by a media offensive aimed at putting pressure on and discrediting the workers in the eyes of the public while denying them the right of reply.

In October the Association of Sick Drummond Employees (ASOTREDP) held a protest outside the Ministry of Social Protection to denounce the serious health problems affecting them as a result of their work as miners. Miners from the Sinifana coal mining region in south east Antioquia also held demonstrations in protest at the tragedy in Amagá in June 2010 in which 74 miners lost their lives.

Members of the mine and energy workers union SINTRAMIENERGETICA employed by the Carbones de La Jagua coalmine, owned by the Swiss multinational Glencore, began a 40 day strike in June in the town of La Jagua de Ibirico, Cesar department, which ended with the signing of a collective agreement. Several demonstrations took place in September in the towns of Segovia and Remedios, Antioquia department, culminating in a civil strike involving the populations of both towns, to defend the workers’ ownership of the Frontino Gold Mines company. These events highlight the serious problems in the mining industry and their disastrous consequences for the environment, the local population and national interests, undermined by those of multinational capital.

Collective bargaining marginal31-12-2010

There are over a million companies and 19 million workers in Colombia, but
collective bargaining is virtually a marginal activity. The negotiation of collective agreements has fallen over the last eight years. The Colombian government has done nothing to encourage free collective bargaining, conducted in good faith. The widespread anti-union attitude of employers, whose practices run contrary to good faith and free and voluntary bargaining, continues with no legal or administrative tools to adequately or effectively promote collective bargaining rights.

Impunity for crimes against trade unionists continues 31-12-2010

Impunity remains a very serious problem in the case of crimes against trade unionists. The Public Prosecution Service only investigates 25.5% of murders and less than 3% of cases of other forms of anti-union violence. The number of people sentenced remains so low that the level of impunity for crimes against trade unionists remains at 98%. Investigations carried out by the Prosecution Service’s sub-division up to February 2010 provided no significant results. The sub-division had 1,344 cases assigned to it but in reality is only investigating 1,150, because they could not find the physical records for 194 cases.

Between January 2002 and April 2010 the courts recorded 296 sentences, of which 207 were handed down by judges specialised in cases of anti-union violence. These cases concerned 414 victims, of which 254 are trade unionists, and 12 are trade unionists’ family members. 148 are people who were victims of anti-union violence, although they have nothing to do with the trade unions. These results show that impunity remains very high despite the increase in the number of sentences handed down. The level of impunity for the crime of forced disappearance is chilling – one sentence in 218 cases, while impunity for non-lethal violence which causes intimidation and restricts freedom of association is virtually 100%.

Practices to obstruct unionisation30-11-2009

Service contracts, also known in Colombia as “service provision orders” (OPS), and civil contracting make it impossible for workers hired in this way to join a union, as they are covered by a legal regime independent of the labour legislation.

Increase in labour outsourcing30-11-2009

Labour outsourcing or subcontracting is still on the rise, largely driven by the ever-growing number of “Associated Work Cooperatives”. The “associates”, not being considered workers, do not enjoy the basic rights enshrined in the labour legislation, being covered by the legislation on cooperatives rather than on employment. Nor are they able to join unions, for a number of reasons, including the fact that they are not considered to be workers.

Public workers’ collective bargaining rights still limited30-11-2009

The government remains steadfast in its refusal to guarantee public workers the full exercise of collective bargaining rights, despite Colombia having ratified ILO Conventions 151 and 154, and the issuing of Decree 535 in 2009, which only, in fact, makes reference to consultation, not collective bargaining, which is very different.

Collective pacts30-11-2009

Although a slight increase was seen in the number of collective agreements signed during 2009, (360, as compared with 280 in 2008, according to Social Protection Ministry figures), employers continue to violate ILO Convention 98. Another 221 collective pacts, used by employers to offer non-unionised workers better conditions and thus prevent unionisation, were signed over the year (the same number as in 2008).

Legislation contributes to fall in trade union organisations30-11-2009

A number of Colombian laws have contributed to a fall in the number of trade union organisations, such as Act 50 of 1990 providing for fixed-term contracts concluded for periods of less than a year, which stops workers from joining a union under the threat of not having their individual employment contracts renewed. The situation was exacerbated by Act 789 of 2002, supposedly passed by the national government to stimulate the creation of new jobs.

© ITUC-CSI-IGB 2013 | www.ituc-csi.org | Contact Design by Pixeleyes.be - maps: jVectorMap