A labor dispute between Colombian autoworkers and their former employer, General Motors (GM), has deepened as conflicting accounts emerge.
The head of the association for injured workers and ex-workers of General Motors (ASOTRECOL), Jorge Parra, is in Detroit demanding a dialogue with GM to bring restitution to the members of his organization, however GM refuses to speak with him.
Jess Hunter-Bowman, the associate director of Witness for Peace (WFP), whose organization is heavily involved in ASOTRECOL’s effort to gain restitution, told Colombia Reports that “the workers have reached out numerous times to GM. They’ve sent letters, the president of the association is is in Detroit right now and he’s gone to GM headquarters to hand deliver letters and ask to speak with them, and GM has refused.”
GM refused to talk with ASOTRECOL due to a belief that any future negotiations would collapse, just as they did when the two disparate groups held a dialogue in late August 2012.
“We don’t think we can have [a] productive dialogue with that group. They’ve demonstrated that to us because we sat down with good faith intentions to be able to leave with a resolution and even though…our offers were generous, they were not willing to consider them; we think going back may not be the best use of our time because we may end up with the same outcome,” said GM spokesperson Katie McBride.
The mediation which took place in late August of 2012 has been a constant source of friction. ASOTRECOL has claimed the compensation offer was far too low, “not enough to even cover surgeries the injured men needed.”
GM has claimed to the contrary. According to the Detroit auto giant, the company’s initial offer “was in the hundreds of thousands of dollars in programs for the former workers and their families…15 months-worth of healthcare and pension benefits and two years of higher education.”
ASOTRECOL’s president, Jorge Parra, is currently in Detroit preparing for a demonstration against GM’s conduct which will take place January 14, with the reported assistance and support of human rights organizations and labor unions.
According to Hunter-Bowman, Parra is on day 53 of a hunger strike, and there is some doubt as to whether he will even be well enough to attend the demonstration.
“He was complaining of intense stomach pain and…vomiting some blood…we hope he can be there but we just have to see how his health is holding up,” said Hunter-Bowman.
Despite the seriousness of Parra’s actions, GM feels that they have addressed this issue.
“As I said, we went through the mediation process, we are addressing the cases individually and you know we went through a very good faith effort to try and address this and they were unwilling to accept our offer, and we don’t think it’s the best use of our time or theirs to go back to the table when the offer that we made was very generous,” said McBride.
When pressed whether they would meet with Jorge individually, McBride said “not again, we don’t see the benefit of doing that, we met with him through the mediation process.”
Jorge Parra ended his last hunger strike when GM agreed to mediation, but with no sign from GM that the organization will choose the same path this time, the alternative could prove tragic.