Colombia’s main public sector union has accused the government of failing to uphold labor agreements and not respecting workers’ right to organize, as tens of thousands of workers prepare for a nationwide strike on Friday.
Diogenes Orjuela from Colombia’s Confederation of Workers (CUT) told Colombia Reports, “neither Colombian businesses nor the Colombian government accept that the right to unionize and the right to collective bargaining exist.”
On Friday public sector workers plan to hold a 24-hour strike. They will be joined by workers from other unions in marching through the capital cities of Colombia’s departments.
Orjuela said “we are asking the government to respect international agreements, the right to unionize, and the right to collective bargaining and that there are direct contracts with workers and they negotiate with unions and give workers dignified working conditions.”
He added, “it is not the workers who don’t want to enter into dialogue, it is the government.”
The main issue for the union is the informal labor market which Orjuela said, accounts for 11 million workers, approximately 57% of the labor force.
The workers, who are either part of controversial cooperatives known as CTAs, or are contracted by third parties, have no right to join unions, collectively negotiate pay and conditions, and have no job stability as they can be laid off at any time.
According to Orjuela this has resulted in the proliferation of “trash jobs.”
Unions have signed several labor agreements with national and local governments, which pledged to put an end to third party contracting, while the Labor Action Plan agreed with the U.S in order to push through the Free Trade Agreement requires Colombia to dismantle the CTAs.
However, the unionist claimed little has changed and that worker cooperatives, contractors, and outsourcers have only undergone “mutations.”
According to Orjuela the organizations have changed into Simplified Stock Companies, false unions or contracting companies, but their practices remain the same.
Orjuela also claimed the government has failed to meet the terms of labor pacts agreed with the U.S, Canada, and the European Union as part of free trade agreements.
He said, “[the agreements] are mere expressions of intentions but in practice the government is not changing its attitude, the business are not changing their attitude.”
On Thursday, the secretary general of the General Confederation of Workers (CGT), Julio Roberto Gomez, claimed the protest was supported by Vice President Angelino Garzon, El Espectador reported.
Gomez said, “[Garzon] is a bridge between society and the development of government policy…his participation is going to be very important in terms of conciliation.”