Meeting in Bogotá, Colombia, on 27 April, the ICEM Latin America/Caribbean Regional Committee gave strong support to non-ICEM affiliate Sintramienergética in the aftermath of its safety strike against US-based Drummond Coal recently. (Details on that strike can be found here.)
The regional committee adopted a resolution calling on both Drummond and the government of Colombia to be vigilant in implementing an adequate occupational safety and health prevention programme at Drummond’s coal operations in César state. The resolution also calls on the company to immediately re-employ some 600 miners who lost their jobs due to a legal strike by rail transport workers.
It calls on Colombia and Drummond, one of the owners of the rail transport line, Fenoco, to respect ILO Conventions 87 and 98, the Freedom of Association and Right to Organise Convention, and the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention.
Members of a Colombian Mechanics’ and Metal Workers’ Union, Sintraime, staged a month-long strike across Fenoco’s coal transport rail lines from 24 March to 20 April for union recognition and workplace rights. The ICEM supports the efforts of these workers to gain their collective rights.
Fenoco, or the Ferrocarrilies Nacionales de Colombia, was bought by the Colombian government in 2006, but immediately commissioned and re-privatised to a handful of multinationals that mine and sell thermal coal from the rich deposits of César state. Fenoco’s biggest shareholders are Drummond and Xstatra, the latter which recently gained a 40% stake of the rail line with transfer of the Prodeco mining enterprise from its Swiss-based holding company, Glencore.
Workers seeking representation with Sintraime engaged in a days-long blockade of the rail line in mid-April. A regional Supreme Court in northern Colombia ruled the strike legal, but Fenoco has now appealed that decision to the Colombia Supreme Court.
In the resolution, the ICEM regional committee, headed by Chairman Sergio Novais of Brazil, also calls on the Colombian government to provide job security and protection to Drummond’s miners, members of Sintramienergética, and the document points to a current social and economic crisis caused by speculative capital and a failed neo-liberal economic model.