The Colombian government hit back at threats by oil company Pacific Rubiales to suspend production unless security improves at their site in Puerto Gaitan as worker protests continue.
The company warned it would bring a halt to production on Tuesday after it was reported that masked men broke into the worker camp and set it on fire as 4,000 workers took part in an otherwise peaceful strike.
The Minister for Mining and Energy, Mauricio Cardenas, told journalists on Tuesday, “foreign countries don’t need to issue warnings to the government because they know that the conditions for security and legal stability to guarantee their operation always exist.”
The minister also condemned acts of violence on the protests. Cardenas said, “The country rejects and deplores violent actions that compromise our prosperity. The country knows that there have been positive attempts at dialogue, that the workers that are at Campo Rubiales have conditions and salaries that were agreed on.”
Earlier in the day, Pacific Rubiales Vice President Federico Restrepo said that the workers who could not return to the camp after their shift because of the trouble were, “technically kidnapped.”
The USO labor union behind the protest accused the company of exaggerating the dangers on Monday, saying it was a tactic to counter the strike.
“They are creating a media circus,” USO President Rodolfo Vecino said.
The strikes began after the Canadian oil company withdrew from negotiations over pay, conditions and contracting.
Although the company agreed a deal with the union UTEN to improve worker pay and conditions several weeks ago, the agreement did not include the majority of Pacific Rubiales workers, who are contracted by third parties.
When protests broke out over the same issues in September, Vecino told Colombia Reports, “they [the workers] don’t have the conditions of a dignified life, they don’t have dignified salaries, they don’t have contracts that genuinely give the workers respectable levels of stability.”