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Uniting Food, Farm and Hotel Workers World-Wide

Colombian Sugar Workers Call Halt to 56-Day Strike after Winning Most Key Demands

Posted to the IUF website 12-Nov-2008

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The union has called an end to the 56-day strike by 18,000 Colombian sugar cane workers after companies employing some 75% of the workers agreed to their major demands on November 10. SINALCORTEROS, the union which led Colombia's longest, toughest and highest profile strike in recent memory has expressed confidence that negotiations still underway with the remaining employers will shortly result in agreements following the pattern already set.

The union has won an average 15% wage increase, a limitation on the working day of 8 hours plus a maximum of two hours overtime (replacing the 12-14 hours previously worked daily), employer contributions to sick pay, and employer commitments to housing, education and social security for workers and their families. Stricter controls are to be placed on the weighing of harvested cane, a procedure through which workers have in the past been routinely robbed.

The union was not able to win direct employment contracts to replace the system of phoney "cooperatives" that has allowed the mill owners to evade responsibility for collective bargaining and health and retirement benefits, but the union feels that the gains won through the struggle and the tripling of union membership in the course of the strike position it to successfully challenge the arrangement in the future.

SINALCORTEROS has highlighted the decisive contribution of international solidarity to the successful outcome of the struggle. The IUF and particularly the IUF's Latin America regional secretariat, which gave political and financial support to the union during the conflict, helped generate pressure on both the government and the employers to settle the strike by agreeing to key union demands.