At least 600 sugarcane harvesters in southwestern Colombia on Thursday reportedly went on strike to protest union persecution and mass layoffs.
The lawyer for the Colombia Workers Confederation (CUT), Fabio Arias, told Colombia Reports that at least 600 sugarcane harvesters working for the La Cabaña company went on strike in the southwestern Cauca department.
“The two causes of the strike are massive workforce layoffs and to denounce the persecution of union leaders,” said Arias.
The union lawyer also said that in addition to their desire to unionize, the workers were also denouncing the January 28th murder of sugar farmer and workers’ rights advocate, Juan Carlos Perez Muñoz.
According to a report from the LA Times, Perez was a 30-year-old sugarcane harvester who represented his fellow harvesters’ desire to have direct communication with management and steady paychecks. The worker and father of two was gunned down in front of coworkers as he attempted to flee his would-be assassins.
CUT reported that in 2012, 20 union representatives were assassinated in Colombia, 90 were kidnapped and over 400 were threatened.
Strike leaders claimed that their protest could have far-reaching economic repercussions for local municipalities that depend on sugar.
According to the protesters, “The company [La Cabaña] and the government forced us to strike because our families do not deserve to starve. We are good men and the only ‘crime’ we have committed is to unionize in order to demand that the company respects our rights.”
The sugar company La Cabaña contradicted Arias’ statements, telling Colombia Reports that there was no strike taking place at the moment.
- Alrededor de 600 corteros de cana vinculados al Ingenio La Cabana entraron en paro (Caracol)
- Corteros del Ingenio La Cabaña, en Cauca, a punto de iniciar paro (Sintrainagro)
- Phone Interview, Fabio Arias (CUT)
- Phone Interview (La Cabaña)
- Despite Colombia’s measures, labor union officials’ lives at risk (LA Times)