Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The following story and appeal for solidarity comes from the Public Services International website. It is a call for solidarity with municipal workers in the city of Barranquilla, Colombia who were unfairly dismissed and then became the object of death threats from the notorious right wing paramilitary groups of that country.
Barranquilla, Colombia:
More than 2,300 municipal workers dismissed
Paramilitary group issues threats against trade unionists:
PSI is asking affiliates to support the municipal workers of the city of Barranquilla, by sending strong letters of protest concerning the dismissal of more than 2,300 municipal service workers by the mayor of Barranquilla, Colombia. The dismissals are the result of an on-going restructuring process in the central administration and decentralised institutions of the City, which began in 1991. The trade unions, including PSI affiliates SINALSERPUB and SINTRENAL, have vigorously opposed this process not least because of the lack of proper consultation, the failure to observe legal requirements and the high job losses which have resulted.
Several of the trade unionists who have voiced opposition to the process now find themselves the target of a paramilitary group which has issued death threats against them.
The central and decentralised administrations of the Municipality of Barranquilla have been subjected to successive restructuring programmes since 1991. These programmes have resulted in mass redundancies and the weakening of the trade unions organising in the municipal sector. The dismissals have been the subject of previous ILO complaints as well as domestic legal proceedings. In many cases, the domestic courts have recommended the re-instatement of the dismissed workers.
Dismissal of more than 2, 300 workers without due process
The present mayor of Barranquilla, Mr Alejandro Char Chaljub, ordered the arbitrary dismissal of more than 2, 300 municipal workers in January. More than 70% of those dismissed are trade unionists. Further, the mayor has directed that, as part of the restructuring, several financially viable decentralised institutions are to be shut down and brought back under the control of the central administration; a process which will result in the suppression of 86 trade union posts.
Death threats
PSI has learned that a right wing paramilitary group has issued death threats against trade unionists and journalists who are opposing the restructuring process. In a letter containing the names of the people against whom these threats have been issued, the group states “these supposedly left-wing fighters will soon die for opposing the changes from which the city would benefit through the policies of President Uribe”; and further calls for the death of all those opposed to the plans of mayor Char Chaljub.
Trade union action
Trade unions in the city of Barranquilla (SINALSRPUB, SINDIBA, ASTESA, SINTRAEDIBA, ASDEBER, SINSERCOSTA, SINTRENAL, ANTHOC) are calling on the mayor of Barranquilla to organise a round-table to enable effective consultation and find a resolution to the industrial conflict generated by the mass dismissals and undemocratic restructuring process. They are calling on the government of Colombia to investigate the death threats issued against the trade unionists and journalists and to ensure their protection, as well as calling on the Special Committee on the Handling of Conflicts referred to the ILO (CETCOIT) to carry out an urgent investigative mission to Barranquilla.

PSI has sent a letter of protest and calls on its affiliates and the international community to send similar letters to the mayor of Barranquilla strongly protesting the dismissal of more than 2,300 municipal service workers and calling for a full and urgent investigation of the death threats issued against trade unionists and journalists opposed to the Mayor's plans.You may download the model letter in Spanish (word format) or go to THIS LINK to send the following message.

Please remember to send copies of your letters to the PSI subregional office in Colombia (, to PSI Headquarters at, and to;;;;; well as to the Colombian mission in your country.
View PSI's letter
Download model letter (word)
Model Letter in Spanish
Doctor Alejandro Char Chaljub
Alcalde, Distrito Especial de Barranquilla
Calle 34, entre Carreras 43 y 44, piso
Respetado alcalde Char Chaljub:
Nuestra organización [nombre] ha conocido, con suma preocupación, sobre el despido masivo de más de 2.300 trabajadores/as del Distrito Especial de Barranquilla y de las instituciones descentralizadas de esa ciudad, siendo el 70% de ellos/as miembros de organizaciones sindicales y 86 tienen fuero sindical, por lo que consideramos que se violentan Convenios Internacionales de la OIT, ratificados por Colombia, como son el 98, 87, 151 y 154, en especial que se atenta contra el derecho de asociación sindical.

De acuerdo con la información que nos han suministrado las organizaciones sindicales afectadas (SINALSERPUB, SINDIBA, ASTESA, SINTRAEDIBA, ASDEBER, SINSERCOSTA, SINTRENAL, ANTHOC), el proceso de reestructuración del Distrito Especial de Barranquilla y sus entidades descentralizadas, que conllevó al despido masivo, se realizó sin que se conociera un estudio técnico que sustentará tales medidas y con el desconocimiento total de las organizaciones sindicales que representan a los/as trabajadores/as del Distrito Especial de Barranquilla.

Igualmente, hemos conocido del interés de las organizaciones sindicales de contribuir al análisis de la situación organizacional y de viabilidad económica del Distrito Especial y sus entidades descentralizadas, por lo que le convocamos a instalar una mesa de concertación con las organizaciones sindicales, para superar el conflicto laboral generado con el despido masivo que realizó su administración.

Por otra parte, le exigimos que ordene una investigación exhaustiva y urgente acerca de las amenazas de muerte proferidas contra los sindicalistas y periodistas opuestos a sus planes y que tome todas las medidas necesarias para garantizar su integridad física.Estaremos atentos al desenvolvimiento de este conflicto, bajo el marco de las garantías sindicales, derecho fundamental de todos los trabajadores del mundo.
[Nombre del representante de la organización]
[Nombre de la organización],

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