ILO sanctions Colombia's poor human rights record

Share this page

Solidarity with Colombian trade unions

ILO developments

June 2010

The International Labour Organisation has agreed to send a High Level Tripartite Mission to Colombia to explore the situation there - a sign that trade union rights continue to be abused. Colombian trade union confederations CUT and CTC have issued a statement welcoming the mission, but complaining that employers resisted further sanctions against Colombia (see below). 'The ILO does not send a mission of this magnitude to a country where trade union rights are not violated,' underlined ITUC General Secretary Guy Ryder.

Meanwhile the ITUC issued the following statement:

'The ITUC and its Colombian affiliates, the CUT, CTC and CGT, hope that the Colombian government will recognise the serious and persistent violence facing people belonging to trade unions, and not seek to conceal the situation with figures and declarations that contradict the facts.

'The ITUC reminds the Colombian government that, according to our figures, Colombia is the most dangerous country in the world for those exercising the right to freedom of association, and that Colombia accounts for 63.12% of the trade unionists murdered over the last decade around the world. At least 10,887 acts of violence were committed against trade unionists between 1 January 1986 and 30 April 2010, including 2,832 murders. Five hundred and fifty seven trade unionists have been murdered during President Uribe's time in office. At least 48 such murders were committed during 2009, and 29 trade unionists have been killed thus far during 2010.

'The ITUC is aware that there is a protection programme and a special unit of public prosecutors, but expresses its concern because, in spite of these measures, trade unionists are still being killed and the rate of impunity remains at 97%.

'The ITUC hopes that the Colombian government will comply with the recommendations of the Committee on the Application of Standards, which underlined in 2009 that a trade union movement can only exist in a climate that is free of violence, and urged the government to bring an end to the current climate of violence and impunity through the application of continuous innovative and effective policies and measures.

CTC logo
CUT and CTC statement

CUT logo
Government of Colombia Accepts ILO Sanction
Admits serious situation of freedom of association in Colombia

In order to avoid a debate this year in the ILO Standards Committee the Government of Colombia accepted a sanction consisting of receiving an ILO High Level Tripartite Mission, in this way admitting that the situation of freedom of association in Colombia has not improved.

As is well known, the ILO Standards Committee debates on the labor and trade union situation of 25 countries. The list is defined based on the report of the Commission of Experts and the discussion and negotiation between spokespersons Luc Cortebeeck for the workers and Ed Potter for the business sector. Until last Friday Colombia was on the list of 25 countries to be checked on by the Standards Committee this year. However, representatives of the business sector vetoed the case of Colombia and with blackmail 'they'll be no list if Colombia is on it', they engineered a final agreement which excluded Colombia from the list and in exchange the government accepted a high level tripartite mission.

The position of the representatives of the business sector against the work of the Committee of Experts, of the doctrine on the right to strike, their refusal to produce an agreement on domestic workers and their veto of the case of Colombia prove that the business sector has joined forces against ILO control. Consequently, the group of workers and, in particular, the ITUC need to evaluate this scenario and design strategies to strengthen the work on the defense of freedom of association in the ILO framework.

With the support of the majority of the group of workers, the CUT, CTC and CPC we held that Colombia should be kept on the list due to the serious violations of labor and trade union rights. In the Plenary of the Standards Committee we unmistakably pointed out that we would not endorse the decision to remove Colombia from the list and in exchange accept a High Level Tripartite Mission. The CGT, through its Secretary General, Julio Roberto Gómez, did not concur with our position and expressed agreement with Colombia's exclusion from the list.

We believe that Colombia on the list is not an end in itself, but the defense of life and respect for labor and trade union rights are a matter of principle; consequently our action has aimed at maintaining a vigilant presence of the international community and ILO.

It is important to clarify that the non-inclusion of a country on the list does not mean recognition by ILO, but the acceptance of a High Level Tripartite Mission on the part of the Colombian government implies that the State accepts it has not complied with ILO requirements in a satisfactory way. Such tripartite missions are used in extremely serious situations, recently in Philippines, Turkey and Guatemala. Therefore, the inaccuracy of the declarations of the government and business sector are surprising because at no point has ILO indicated that the issues of human rights and freedom of association have been solved.

Reality is that the Colombian State has not complied with the observations and recommendations of the ILO organs of control, and this reality does not change because this year Colombia is not on the list of cases of the Standards Committee.






Printer-friendly versionSend by email

Share this Page