Support The Injured Colombian Workers
Guarantees made to Colombian Workers through the Labor Action Plan of the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Not Enforced
Oil Workers Join General Motors Workers in Occupying Outside of US Embassy
On February 16, 2015, 20 injured workers from the Colombian petroleum industry joined the injured Colombian General Motors workers in the tent encampment in front of the U.S. Embassy in Bogota that the GM workers have occupied for the last 3 ½ years. Many of their wives accompanied them, bringing the total number in the encampment up to around 30.
Disabling injuries are increasingly a problem in Colombia, where protections have become more lax and healthcare has been privatized (leading occupational healthcare insurers to deny coverage by claiming that worker’s injuries are non-occupational). Companies such as General Motors, Halliburton (oil sector), Coca Cola, Drummond Coal and others, realizing that they were not going to be required to follow labor laws have increasingly exposed workers to conditions which resulted in disabling injury and then get rid of the problem by getting rid of the worker, a practice which is illegal on the books but in wide practice in Colombia.
The GM workers developed disabling injuries while working for GM at its assembly plant in Bogota, Colombia and were dismissed after becoming injured on the job, rather than being relocated to positions they could do with their injuries (what the law requires).
The oil sector workers who traveled 6 hours from the southwestern Colombia department of Huila to join the tent encampment, include workers who have lost their legs to the petroleum industry’s rush to get as much oil out of the ground as quickly as possible. Equipment goes unmaintained and when a valve fails, it can cost the worker his leg. Companies do their best to blame the injured worker for the accident.
Throughout the country, injured workers try the official channels and run into dead ends. That is what led the injured GM workers to camp in front of the U.S. Embassy and what led the other injured workers to join them. Injured workers are left without work, healthcare, or the support of the Colombian or U.S. governments to challenge companies that are taking advantage of the lack of enforcement of labor laws.
These Colombian workers are calling on the U.S. government for help since their rights have clearly been violated despite guarantees that were made to Colombian workers through the Labor Action Plan of the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement. But U.S. Ambassador Kevin Whitaker has not met with the injured workers once in the 9 months that he has been in the country.
The workers need your support in order to get a meeting with the Ambassador to discuss possible solutions. Also, the demonstration of community support helps ensure that aggressions are not carried out against the injured workers.
Important new development!
Former workers at the General Motors plant in Bogotá have joined with former workers from Colombia’s oil industry to take steps to form a new association of workers who have suffered injuries, infirmities and other grievances associated with the activities of transnational corporations. For 3 1/2 years members of ASOTRECOL (The Association of Injured Workers and Ex-Workers of General Motors Colmotores) have maintained a camp outside the United States Embassy, demanding adequate compensation and retraining for employment after losing jobs due to injuries sustained while working for the GM plant in Bogotá.
Inspired by their example, workers in similar conditions have begun calling for compensation, education and new jobs in place of abandonment because of work-related disabilities. In a spirit of worker to worker solidarity, the former oil industry workers and the members of ASOTRECOL are finding common cause in beginning the process of organizing together, and they are inviting other Colombians to join them.
Their focus on transnational corporations is generated by the failure of the Labor Action Plan to protect workers as was promised in order to secure passage of the US-Colombia Free Trade Agreement. While global corporations grow rich exploiting Colombia’s natural resources, the nation’s workers are treated as expendable, to be tossed away and ignored when they are no longer able to do the jobs for which they were hired–even if it is those jobs that cost them their health.
Support the Injured Colombian Workers!!!
Call the U.S. Embassy in Bogota, Colombia (FOR FREE!)
HOW TO MAKE THE CALL
You can use your cell phone at no charge by following these instructions:
Call 50 38 87 642 and Enter pin: 50-03-10-40-84
(If the balance is too low using that pin #, use pin: 34-22-24-83-87)
Dial the Embassy phone number: 011-57-1-275-2000
(Embassy is open M-F 9am-4pm EST)
[They might answer in Spanish, but they will understand you if you speak English]
Ask for the Ambassador’s office
[If they try to tell you to send a FAX instead, or to call some other number it means they are receiving a lot of calls. Just insist that you have a quick message and you need the Executive office.]
I would like to leave a message for Ambassador Whitaker.
My name is _____________________
I am a member of ______________(UNION LOCAL, ORGANIZATION, or CHURCH).
I want the injured workers camped outside the Embassy to be allowed to continue to peacefully protest.
I would like Ambassador Whitaker to meet with the injured workers to work toward a solution.