Date: Sun, 15 Mar 98 00:06:51 CST
From: email@example.com (Rich Winkel)
Subject: Colombian Battle Over Power Privatization
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Colombian Anti-Union Attacks Threaten Power Privatisations
ICEM Update, No. 12/1998, 3 March 1998
The following is from the International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions (ICEM):
Big restructuring and privatisation programmes in the Colombian electricity industry could be at risk if the basic rights of the country's power workers are flouted.
That is the message to Colombian President Ernesto Samper Pizano from the 20-million-strong International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions. The ICEM has also urged President Samper to act on his pledge to halt the spirallin g violence which has claimed the lives of thousands of Colombian trade unionists.
In negotiations with the electricity workers' union Sintraelecol, the Colombian Ministry of Mines and Energy recently tabled a proposal that would in effect annul current collective agreements and would curb electricity workers' basic union rights, includ ing freedom of association, free collective bargaining and the right to strike. Colombia is signed up to the Conventions of the UN's International Labour Organisation protecting these rights.
The ICEM's experience, it tells President Samper, is that industry restructuring can be successful only if "workers and their unions are fully involved as partners in all phases of the process." Up to now, Colombia's electricity workers have secured some of the few good collective agreements in this strife-torn country. In fact, the ICEM has often cited the existing agreements between Sintraelecol and the Ministry as an example of a well-functioning partnership.
The core message from the ICEM to the Colombian President: "The best way of guaranteeing the supply of electricity to all citizens at a reasonable price and to maintain a qualified, motivated workforce is to establish a proper regulatory framework and a n ational collective agreement to cover all the companies in the sector, both existing and future entrants."
Obviously, though, real collective bargaining is possible only where trade unionists can work without fear. Thousands of Colombian trade unionists have been murdered in recent years, including oil workers and their representatives.
This terror recently spread to the electricity sector with the murder of Odulfo Zambrano, President of Sintraelecol's Atlantic regional section.
The ICEM has again called upon President Samper to break down "the structures of violence" in Colombia.
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