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Corrupt Colombian manager sacks union leadership

Corrupt Colombian manager sacks union leadership

A Colombian manager accused by his employees of corruption responds with death threats and sacking 60 workers, including the president of the trade union and five members of the executive board. International unions protest and demand that Colombian President Uribe begins to protect the lives of Colombian unionists.

23.07.2004 (By Maria Engqvist, ANNCOL) The Managing Director of the EMCALI municipal company in Cali, Carlos Alfonso Potes, summarily dismissed 60 workers, including the President of the SINTRAEMCALI trade union and five members of the Executive Board, on 14 July.

The justification for the dismissal was that SINTRAEMCALI had called an illegal strike, which had caused the interruption of essential services.

SINTRAEMCALI has publicly denied these accusations, and has a large number of signed statements, including from the Mayor of Cali, the Governor of the region, the Municipal Health Secretary, and numerous human rights and consumers' associations, which testify that the services were not interrupted.

SINTRAEMCALI has recently publicly accused the EMCALI Managing Director of embezzlement of public funds. Union President Luis Hernandez and other members of the Executive Board have been subjected to a series of death threats in June and July. Over the last 10 years, 16 members of SINTRAEMCALI have been assassinated, and 5 are in exile.

Public Services International (PSI), an international trade union federation for public sector unions is protesting against the sackings. PSI, that represents 20 million health workers, firefighters, civil servants, and other public employees, has written to Colombia's President Alvaro Uribe calling for the reinstatement of the 60 dismissed workers, and demanding full guarantees for the protection of the lives of SINTRAEMCALI union members.

SINTRAEMCALI has been pressing for the full implementation of the agreement signed by the National and Regional Government on 15 May 2003. This agreement stated that the EMCALI water, electricity and communications company would be maintained in public ownership and included a plan to ensure the financial viability of the company. SINTRAEMCALI called for a permanent assembly of the company administration building on 26 May 2004 for 4 days in order to press for the implementation of the agreement.

The permanent assembly was declared an illegal strike, which had caused an interruption in the provision of essential services by the Ministry of Social Protection on June 2 2004. Under Colombian law, union activists participating in illegal strikes can be dismissed without further cause shown.

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