Workers in Colombia are once again victims of armed violence for trying to exercise their right to join and be represented by a trade union.
On January 14, armed gunmen entered the Palo Alto plantation, Ciénaga district, Magdelena. They had a list of names in their hands and demanded to know the whereabouts of two specific workers José Luis Soto Jaramillo y Juan Carlos Torres Muñoz. They then shouted, “Get out of here because we have come to kill you – no hiding” and opened fire, wounding Miguel Augusto Cuenca Torregroza. 185 workers were then forced at gunpoint to leave their workplace.
The IUF-affiliated SINTRAINAGRO immediately condemned the violence and called for solidarity action. The Palo Alto workers had been protesting since December 23, 2009 about non-payment of wages, bonuses, redundancy payments, family grant payments, funeral services and seven years of their employer not paying pension and healthcare contributions. The company is refusing to negotiate a collective bargaining agreement with their union, SINTRAINAGRO.
The Palo Alto plantation, which produces hearts of palm, belongs to Palo Alto Gnecco Espinosa Investments, a private company with substantial investments in Colombia’s Atlantic coast zone.
The IUF has written to Colombian president Alvaro Uribe and to government ministers, calling on them to investigate the incident and take immediate measures to guarantee the safety of the workers and ensure they can exercise their fundamental trade union rights.
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