This video is about the workers’ struggle in Colombia, and anti-trade union violence in Colombia.
By Andy Higginbottom in Britain:
Crackdown in Colombia
Wednesday 24 February 2010
The workers are members of the national oil workers union USO which has only been able to organise in Casanare in the last year. Their strike met police repression last week and is now at a critical stage.
USO started recruiting members among construction workers at the Tauramena storage and pumping installation. They were working for the contractor SAR Energy, which in turn had procured them through an agency.
SAR Energy went bust and the workers were told to enter contracts with a replacement intermediary company, but in reality they work for the pipeline company Ocensa.
Ocensa transports the region’s high-grade oil 800km to the Caribbean, from where it is exported to the US market.
In the face of the deliberate confusion over their status, the workers stopped work on January 22 for improved wages and more secure conditions and mounted pickets and protests.
On February 15 the notorious ESMAD “anti-mutiny” police attacked the workers’ picket line and the local community with teargas and beatings.
Despite three workers being hospitalised and numbers of local school children suffering after-effects from the tear gas, the strike strengthened.
A feature of the conflict has been the combination of labour demands with broader community concerns. USO is seeking social investment in the community.
Tauramena council, the local chamber of commerce and transport association all back the strike. On February 16, as USO communications officer Oscar Garcia explains, “we had a great demonstration of citizen support for the strikers, with a parade in Tauramena of more than 700 motorcyclists, cars and townspeople.”
The next day saw another march, this time into the countryside passing by Chaparral, Tauramena CPF and El Venado, all entry points into the Cusiana field.
This is a great turnaround for a region emerging from the grip of fear. Ever since BP arrived in the early 1990s, communities in the area have been hit with blanket military occupation and paramilitary executions.
Jonathon Glennie of Christian Aid comments that BP benefits “from the climate of fear created by the ongoing violence which stifles union and civil society protests against their installations,” which brings us right back to BP‘s responsibilities with respect to the current stoppage.
BP calls the shots in Casanare. The corporation is already under fire for “green-washing” [and] its involvement in the hugely destructive tar sands extraction in Canada.
The Tauramena conflict again brings into focus just what the claims of corporate social responsibility really mean.
Yet not only does BP benefit from Ocensa’s services, BP set up the pipeline company in the first place, so completing the infrastructure necessary to realise its £3 billion investment in Casanare.
Latest public information reports that BP is Ocensa’s largest private shareholder, carrying with its 25 per cent shareholding a place on the consortium’s board.
Sub-contracting may offer distance, but by all reasonable tests the dispute between an Ocensa contractor and its workforce still falls within BP‘s corporate “sphere of influence.”
USO is urgently seeking a negotiated solution and calls for BP to join it in substantive talks.
But at this point there is no telling if BP will meet even this bare minimum of respect for union organisation.
Garcia emphasises that BP’s refusal to recognise USO “is in clear violation of ILO article 87 on trade union freedom … we will not renounce that we represent our comrade workers in the oil industry across the country.”
In the meantime, in the last few days military intelligence officers have been blatantly filming picketers, which in the Colombian context is a direct precursor to being targeted for assassination.
Andy Higginbottom is secretary of Colombia Solidarity Campaign.
After more than a month on strike, the workers and their families need economic support. USO is appealing for food and donations. Messages of solidarity to the workers can be sent via USO’s human rights commission at email: email@example.com or through the community NGO COS-PACC at email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Colombia Solidarity Campaign has called an emergency picket of BP tomorrow Friday February 26 at 4pm outside BP HQ 1 St James’s Square, London SW1.
See also here.
Apparently, the corporate media doesn’t consider this to be newsworthy: the confession to a Colombian prosecutor of 30,000 murders by paramilitaries linked to the regime of President Alvaro Uribe: here.
Left-wing opposition leaders and unions hailed a sensational court ruling on Sunday that prevented Colombian President Alvaro Uribe standing for a third term as “saving democracy from authoritarianism”.
In response to the Colombian President Alvaro Uribe’s call to his ambassadors to ban the screening of Insurgency of the 21st Century, Australian activist groups have started promoting the documentary: here.
The killing of a Colombian human rights activist has sparked calls for an urgent investigation into his death: here.
A retired police major said on Monday that Colombian President Alvaro Uribe’s younger brother commanded a right-wing death squad in the early 1990s from the wealthy family’s cattle ranch.
A high-profile court case in the United States, involving British-based oil multinational BP, has hardly been reported here. Yet it tells us so much about how giant companies and the law operate: here.
BOGOTÁ, Apr 12, 2010 (IPS) – The front-runner in the polls for Colombia’s presidential elections, Juan Manuel Santos, has come under fire from his rivals for his role in the scandal over young civilians killed by the army and passed off as guerrilla casualties, which broke out while he was defence minister: here.
Colombian prosecutors have revealed that investigators had exhumed 3,131 bodies of people murdered by the right-wing paramilitiaries that President Alvaro Uribe claimed had been “demobilised”.
On June 5, Hernán Abdiel Ordoñez Dorado was shot to death while out with his mother. This wasn’t some random and unexplainable act of violence; Hernán was killed because he was a unionist. He was on the executive board of The Prison Workers’ Union (ASEINPEC) in Cali, Colombia, and had been involved in a campaign against the corruption of top prison officials: here.
- PE firm Advent to buy Ocensa oil pipeline stake for $1.1 billion – WSJ (pehub.com)
- Strikes Surge as Killings of Colombian Union Leaders Fall (bloomberg.com)
- IKEA Workers Locked Out, Boycott IKEA and Expand the Strike! (indybay.org)
- What Does the El Aro Massacre of 1997 in Colombia Tell us about the State’s Use of Paramilitary Organisations? (lasalafoundation.wordpress.com)
- Colombian, Guatemalan human rights violations (dearkitty1.wordpress.com)
- Rep. Sandy Levin on why Congress should talk to more unemployed workers (washingtonpost.com)
- US Failing To Ensure Stronger Colombian Labor Standards, Congressmen Warn (mintpressnews.com)
- Demand BP Apologize for Online Harassment (forcechange.com)
- Anti-Union Violence in Colombia Sparks Report by U.S. Congressmen (hispanicallyspeakingnews.com)
- Stop & Shop union leaders holding meetings over possible strike (newsday.com)