Call for end to harassment of Colombian trade unionists(19/03/2012) Following a US and European tour by SINTRAEMCALI leaders to highlight the plight of municipal workers in Colombia's third city, Cali, UNISON general secretary has protested to the Colombian president, Juan Manuel Santos.
Dave Prentis called for the reinstatement of 51 sacked workers and for the authorities to investigate the death threats against SINTRAEMCALI president, Jorge Ivan Valez. And now Labour Start have initiated an online campaign Labour Start petition - Sintraemcali
The case has been ongoing since 2004, when 51 members of the SINTRAEMCALI union were fired for their labour organising activities. On three separate occasions, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) recommended that Colombia re-hire the workers because they were unjustly dismissed for belonging to a union (ILO Case 2356). On 12 October 2011, a Colombian court ordered EMCALI to reinstate the 51 union members (Ruling 061).
On 5 December 2011, five of the 51 sacked workers initiated a hunger strike in Plaza Caicedo in Cali in order to urge the Colombian government to comply with the court ruling. The five called off the hunger strike after being hospitalised but the protests continue in the Plaza. On 26 January, the Colombian court in charge of the case ordered the arrest of Sabas Ramiro Tafur Reyes, director general of EMCALI, for not re-hiring the workers as indicated in Ruling 061. Mr Tafur continues to blatantly reject the court decision and ILO recommendations, despite the arrest order.
Violence, threats, and stigmatisation against SINTRAEMCALI continue unabated. In the last ten years, 8 members of SINTRAEMCALI have been murdered, 15 have been forced into exile, and more that 100 have been threatened. SINTRAEMCALIís current president, Jorge Ivan Velez, has received several death threats. Other members of the union continue to receive death threats as well.
Members of SINTRAEMCALI, labour rights activists, and human rights defenders were also targeted in 2004 in a detailed assassination plot and smear campaign known as 'Operation Dragon'. Operation Dragon was developed by retired members of the military, private contractors, and hired assassins. The attorney generalís office discovered that the perpetrators intended to murder several members of SINTRAEMCALI, Senator Alexander Lopez Maya (past president of SINTRAEMCALI), and Berenice Celeyta of NOMADESC. Those behind Operation Dragon also attempted to falsely link members of SINTRAEMCALI to guerrilla groups as part of a defamation campaign.
Please email the president of Colombia calling on him to enforce the reinstatement order and to protect the lives of those who have received death threats. Since the Labour Start campaign went live the Colombian government have started blocking email addresses. Please keep trying as Labour Start will replace the addresses once new ones become known.
Labour Start petition - Sintraemcali
See Dave Prentis' letter to the president of Colombia here