Colombia: The Most Dangerous Place to be a Union Member
Labour unionism is a well-established social force in Colombia, with workers organising themselves since the first decade of the twentieth century. Unfortunately, the country also has a similarly long history of anti-union violence and repression. The background to the recent history of violence is the internal armed conflict that has raged for half a century (UN Special Rapporteur 2010b: 6). The conflict certainly must be considered in any study of labour unionism in Colombia, but the presence of unions significantly predates the modern conflict and, indeed, is usually dated back to the early 1900s. This chapter examines the historical context and outlines the contemporary situation, concentrating initially on the climate of violence, and the role of various actors, including government, military, paramilitary and the guerrillas, big business, and the major problem of impunity. We also address different aspects of changes in the socio-economic context relevant to union rights, such as privatisation, workers’ cooperatives and the role of labour law. The chapter also identifies a number of key challenges around the collection of evidence (including the availability and use of data and statistics), the role of the security services and the failure of the international community to respond adequately to the most grave labour union rights crisis in the world. The materials for doing so arise from surveying various specialist secondary sources and publications available to the authors through their advocacy and campaigning work.
KeywordsUnion Member Labour Unionist Union Leader Collective Agreement British Petroleum
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