Justice for Colombia: Day 2, The CUT Headquarters


Following on from the delegations arrival in Bogotá, Our Head of Employment here at Simpson Millar LLP blogs day 2 experiences.

CUT Headquarters

On the bus by 07.30am and across the city to the CUT headquarters (Colombian equivalent of the TUC) to meet with representatives of affiliated unions from the private and public sectors.

Delegates learned of the plight of workers in Colombia to exercise the most basic rights, e.g. the freedom to join a union, to participate in collective bargaining for better working conditions and, to take industrial action.

In Colombia, joining a union can get you sacked. If you're not sacked you're likely to experience intimidation, denied pay and be subjected to repeated physical violence. Union organisers routinely receive death threats and many have been arrested, imprisoned or assassinated for their involvement in trade union activities.

The delegation split into two groups; I heard the experiences of those working in the public sector in Colombia where, not unlike Britain, public health services are in a privatisation process. Private companies now run most of Colombia's hospitals however, they have amassed the profits without ploughing money back into the service and this has seen facilities and medical care rapidly deteriorate.

Maria Gonzales from the CUT Executive explained that, "There are 22.5 million working people in Colombia; yet only 7 million have a permanent employment contract".

One spokesperson described how third party intermediaries had bought up public hospitals. Those companies now generate more money per annum than the entire oil industry in Colombia. Profits are not ploughed back into the service but into the pockets of businesses, with the effect that 600 hospitals are due to close.

For those living in rural areas or even on the outskirts of Bogotá, access to medical care doesn't exist.

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