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Shoot a trade unionist cheaper than negotiating


To shoot a trade unionist is cheaper than to negotiate

A thorough study by the International Commission for Labour Rights concludes that in Colombia it's quicker, cheaper and less risky to kill trade unionists involved in an employment dispute than it is to use legal civil procedures to solve the dispute. The Colombian government is to blame for the death squad assassination campaign against workers' representatives.

12.07.2004 (By Maria Engqvist, ANNCOL) Throughout the world a number of trade unionists are killed because they are trade unionists.

According to the International Commission for Labour Rights (ICLR), it is an astonishing fact that over three quarters of those individuals who have been murdered are Colombian. In 2002 the death toll was 184, in 2003 there were 90 murders. Alongside the murders came countless death threats, kidnappings, torture, arrests, and attempted assassinations.

In respect of almost 4,000 murders of trade unionists since 1986 there has been almost 100 percent impunity - there were just five convictions for these murders between 1986 and 2002.

In the last week of March 2004 ICLR sent a mission of legal experts to Colombia to investigate violations of the right to life and liberty of trade unionists, the crisis of impunity that surrounds these violations and the systemic and systematic failings in the Colombian justice system that allow the violations to continue.

The participants were: Teodoro Sánchez de Bustamante of the Labour Lawyers Association in Argentina; Sarah Lucy Cooper of the Bar Human Rights Committee in UK; and Efren Sandoval of UNSITRAGUA, Guatemala. After a careful revision of the information collected, the ICLR draws the following general conclusions:

»As the Colombian Government fails to guarantee the full enjoyment and protection of fundamental rights, the conditions required for the full exercise of Trade Union Freedom do not exist, and accordingly, there is a constant direct and indirect violation of Conventions 87, 98 and 154 by the Colombian Government.

The situation in which trade unionists find themselves in is extremely concerning as whilst the Colombian Government accepts that they are being targeted, the virtual total impunity in which the cases of murder remain means that there is no real deterrent for the perpetrators of the killings.

The sad reality is that it is probably quicker, cheaper and less risky to murder trade unionists involved in an employment dispute than it is to use the civil procedures laid down for the resolution of such disputes by arbitration or litigation.«

Welcoming the ICLR report, the leader of the USO oilworker's union Gabriel Alvis said that Colombia's trade unionists would continue to risk their lives and liberty in defence of their jobs and democracy.

The International Commission for Labour Rights was formed in response to an urgent need to defend the fundamental rights of working people worldwide. The initiative for the Commission lies with the International Association of Democratic Lawyers and the International Centre for Trade Union Rights.

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