An international labor network announced Wednesday it will step up its work in Colombia under its “Freedom from fear” project.
Union Network International made the announcement in one of three press releases published on their website after a recent trip to the country. Dates of the trip were not available.
UNI is hoping to establish a permanent presence in Colombia and increase the number of projects there. It was not specified how many there are currently.
The network consists of roughly 900 unions representing 15.5 million workers, according to the UNI website.
On Tuesday, the network issued its first post trip press release to condemn the decision of the Colombian government to cut funding to a group of International Labor Organization projects.
The projects were originally given a four-year funding promise under heavy pressure from the U.N., but now will be cut after less than 18 months, claimed UNI.
“We need the solidarity of the rest of the world. We want this government to respect trade union freedom,” said CUT’s President Tarsicio Mora Godoy.
The mission also called for greater union protection, citing information that 41 trade unionists have been killed thus far this year.
The Colombian government has increased the number of prosecutors and judges for union crimes and many union leaders now receive protection, but union assassinations have continued and the vast majority of crimes remain unprosecuted.
“Companies invest in Colombia because no more than 47,000 workers are covered by collective agreements,” said Raul Requena who heads UNI Development.
“To UNI you all are heroes. We have a profound attachment to you as people and as unions,” said General Secretary Philip Jennings. “It’s not enough to be democratic—you have to be able to live in a society free form fear, and that is not the case in Colombia.”
UNI also urged financial company Citigroup to help promote labor rights in the country. Bank leader Leonidas Gomas, murdered in March, worked for Citibank in Bogotá.
“We want to show there is another way,” said Jennings. “We want to show something good can come from the sad loss of Leonidas.”
“We deeply regret the death of Leonidas, it was a shock” Citibank HR Vice president Miguel Suarez told the UNI mission. “This is something Citibank condemns.”