The IUF-affiliated SINTRAINAGRO has won direct, permanent contracts for cane cutters at the Risaralda mill in western Colombia’s Cauca Valley. The breakthrough agreement was signed on March 5 after 500 cane cutters launched an indefinite strike on March 2 and were brutally attacked by state anti-riot forces and company guards the following day. The assault resulted in dozens of injured strikers and left local union leader Carlos Ossa Trejos in critical condition.
Agreement was reached following intensive negotiations involving the union, the national executive of the CUT and the Ministry of Labour.
Prior to this agreement, cane cutters with many years of work were being employed on limited fixed-term contracts, and mechanization has further depressed wages. The agreement commits the company to providing open-ended, permanent employment contracts “in accordance with ILO decent work standards” to all SINTRAINAGRO cutters, who will be employed by a Risaralda subsidiary to be established within 10 weeks. The company cannot fire or refuse to hire strikers, must “ensure the application of the principles of equality and non-discrimination” in assigning work and will establish mechanisms for ensuring payment of social security contributions, among other measures.
“This government wants to create an atmosphere of terror against anyone who dares to raise their head. However, workers and their families are losing their fear and defending their right to employment and decent living conditions” said SINTRAINAGRO’s Mauricio Ramos. “Once again it has been shown that mobilization, pressure and peaceful struggle are the tools for claiming rights.”