ENS Labour Information Agency. Summary for the Month of September 2018

Here we summarise the five news items judged the most relevant, among our news items and reports issued during the month of September 2018:

– Trade Union Federations Express Views Regarding Decent Work Pact Proposed by President Duque Administration.

– Workers Trade Union (Unión sindical Obrera USO) Satisfied with New Collective Convention at Ecopetrol.

– New Collective Convention at Bank of the Republic after 22 Years.

– Strike at Port of Buenaventura Ends after Labour Ministry mediation.

– Two Outstanding Developments at X CGT Congress: Attendance of President Duque and Julio R. Gómez Re-Elected President.

Leer resumen en español aquí.

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September 27 

Trade Union Federations Express their Views Regarding Decent Work Pact Proposed by Duque Administration

The new Duque Administration will join in celebrating the World Day for Decent Work 2018 by undertaking a promotional event at the Park of Lourdes in Bogota, on October 9, where it will present its proposal for a “Decent Work Pact”, to include trade union federations, the entrepreneurial sector and the Administration.

According to Labour Minister Alicia Arango, the purpose of this promotional event, which President Duque will attend personally, is to illustrate the importance that the National Government allocates to the issues of Decent Work and of ensuring labour guarantees for Colombian workers.

The Decent Work Pact proposed by the Administration has as its main axes job creation and entrepreneurial actions within the framework of the so-called “orange economy”, respect for labour rights, promotion of social protection and strengthening of social dialogue and tri-partisanship.

The Pact is still under discussion among the parties involved, but the large trade union federations have already began to voice their views on the subject. While CGT and CTC consider Duque’s initiative positive, the Workers Union CUT has expressed reservations, feeling that there is no need for such a Pact in the first place. CUT affirms that as long as the Government complies with ILO recommendations and fulfils its commitments, not only ILO conventions but other treaties such as the Labour Action Plan between Colombia and the United States prior to implementing their FTA, and the conditions agreed to prior to Colombia’s acceptance into the OCDE.

Not fulfilling these commitments is what results in social inequality, the increased vulnerability of jobs and salaries, labour conditions and social benefits for all Colombians”, points out Luis Pedraza, president of CUT.

Julio R. Gómez, CGT President, believes this Pact is a good government measure and can provide the opportunity to struggle against outsourcing, labour informality and the various other disadvantages affecting the working class. It requires, however, that both workers and the trade union movement exert continued pressure, so that the Pact doesn´t become just another treaty that is not endorsed.

Miguel Morantes, President of CTC, declared that the proposal is beneficial, inasmuch as the issue of Decent Work has been under discussion for a long time, yet no significant advances have been made. “Every effort made in this direction is important”, he stressed.

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September 30

USO Satisfied with New Collective Convention at Ecopetrol

 The most significant change involving the new collective convention undersigned by the Workers Trade Union Federation USO and Ecopetrol, a State enterprise with 7.200 workers, are the benefits it accrues for both hired and outsourced workers. Ecopetrol calls outsourced workers “directors”, but in reality they are technicians and supervisors whose labour rights have been violated throughout the last 40 years. The convention has a four and a half years duration.

Outsourced workers are not included in the payroll at Ecopetrol, and the company has been invariably denying them conventional labour benefits. The new convention was negotiated so that the benefits accrued to its ordinary workers also apply to a large group of outsourced workers, based on a salary agreement reached between Ecopetrol and USO in 2017, which then only applied to its regular workers.

Today nearly 1000 technicians and supervisors form the USO basis at Ecopetrol. Under this new convention, they will be paid extra hours, a right which had always been denied to them despite several rulings from the Supreme Court of Justice and other tribunals condemning Ecopetrol for said practice.

Another important achievement of the new convention, says César Loza, President of USO, is that Ecopetrol has promised to finance a social project that is to have real impact in the Magdalena region, where this state oil company was born a hundred years ago. The State entity will make expenditures in infrastructure and public health networks, as compensation for the immense wealth the region has given the country.

On the issue of oil policies and the defence of Ecopetrol as a public enterprise, which is a very important point for USO in any negotiation, this time nothing was set down in writing, in the collective convention per se, but the Ministry of Mines showed himself particularly interested in the development of alternative energies proposed by USO.

Concerning the Refinery at Barrancabermeja, the National Administration did not actually promise to undertake the modernisation process that USO has been demanding, but it has announced large investments in the area. With regard to the reversion of the oil field operated by the European Mansarovar in the Middle Magdalena Region, it will revert to Ecopetrol in 2020, the year in which the concession is to expire.

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September 14

New Collective Convention at Bank of the Republic after 22 Years

The last collective convention undersigned at the Bank of the Republic was in 1996. The new convention that the grassroots trade union Anebre has managed to undersign with Ecopetrol, after a whole year of very tough negotiations, and which will last for five years, is to benefit 2.600 bank workers all over the country.

For 22 years, Anebre had abstained from putting forward a plea and negotiating a convention, fearing the loss of any benefits already conquered via an Arbitration Tribunal. In spite of the fact that most of its members are bank employees, the trade union never had the word ‘strike’ on its agenda: like the issuing bank they worked for, the trade union also considered itself an “essential public service”, and feared that any strike would be declared illegal, which is what actually happened when there was a pilot strike at Avianca.

 “The most important achievement–emphasised Abdénago Aguilar, Anebre President, was that the collective convention of 1996 was not affected. We negotiated the new one upon the basis of a plea rendered in by the trade union, and not on the one that the bank tried to impose”.

Aguilar also highlighted the increase in education subsidies for children of employees, an increase in the amount of housing loans, and a decrease in credit interest rates.

The issue of outsourcing remains suspended, and for the trade union this matter is essential, due to the fact that outsourced workers constitute around 32% of the total workforce. Levelling existing salaries is also a pending problem.  “There are 218 staff members who earn 50% of the payroll, while the Bank has a total of 2.600 workers”, pointed out the trade union leader.

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September 20

 Mediation of Labour Ministry was Key in Ending Strike at Port of Buenaventura

After a 16-day standstill, an agreement was reached to end the workers strike at the TCBUEN Port in Buenaventura. The standstill had been used to pressure the company into signing the petition plea presented by the SNTT industrial trade union. The Ministry of Labour was a key factor, successfully mediating in the conflict.

The agreement was reached after an intense round of meeting. Apart from the Labour Ministry, the top staff at TCBUEN and the SNTT of Colombia trade union members, the Superintendence of Ports and Transport and the General Ombudsman’s Office also took part in the meetings. These served to advance the points held in the bargain plea that the company had been refusing to negotiate systematically.

It was an exhausting process, which was really fruitful for port workers. A favourable negotiation was achieved for both parties, and for the port community in general, as well, which was anxious about reaching a solution to the conflict, as a great deal of freight had accumulated at the port due to the TCBUEN strike”, declared Esteban Barboza, National SNTT President.

A remarkable thing about this labour conflict was the fact that the SNTT trade union is a minority member of TCBUEN. Only 87 of the total amount of 380 workers are affiliated to this union, and yet it was able to get the majority of port workers (82%) to vote in favour of the strike.

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September 18

X CGT Congress HeldWith Attendance of President Duque

 With the participation of 760 trade union and trade union federation delegates, and a similar number of national and international guests, the X Congress of the General Confederation Workers CGT was held. Two outstanding developments took place during this Congress: incoming president Ivan Duque was present at the inauguration, and Julio Roberto Gómez was re-elected President of the confederation.

During its various discussion fora, the X CGT Congress took on board various issues, such as country’s current economic, labour and trade union panorama, corruption and its impact on development, social dialogue, labour outsourcing and social protection, the country’s economic model, and the future of CGT.

During his speech, President Duque pointed out the need to recover trust in a social dialogue, which must fulfil its commitments in order to bear fruit. He also announced that he would be attending the next meeting of the Commission for the Conciliation of Social and Labour Policies, as proof of his commitment to social dialogue.

President Duque highlighted the “failure” of Neo-Liberal theories, which leave everything to market forces, but also stressed the failure of Socialism, ‘which believes that the State can do everything”. In this context he noted that “entrepreneurial development is no good if it does not go hand in hand with the improvement of working conditions”. And about the much-mentioned pension reform, he said that the problem is that pension subsidies tend to go to retired people with the largest incomes, while a reform of the pension system “should deliver these subsidies to the poorest”.

Regarding the peace process with FARC, President Duque reaffirmed his commitment to support reinsertion, the eradication of illicit crops if it is done on a voluntary basis, and investment in areas that have been affected by violence. He also said he would take up negotiations with the ELN guerrilla anew, if the group puts a full stop to violence and kidnappings.

Julio R. Gómez, re-elected President of CGT, expressed the hope that the new Administration will truly endeavour to reduce unemployment, the informal sector, outsourcing, the crisis in the social security system, and threats to trade-union liberties. He also ratified his bet for social dialogue as the way to achieve peace in Colombia.

ENS Labour Information Agency Summary for the Month of August 2018

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