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

Here we highlight the news items issued by AIL during the month of October; those we consider to be the most relevant ones:

– A Shortage of Decent Work and Protection for the Aged Persists in Colombia. Special ENs report.

– CUT Trade Union Federation Renews Top Staff: Diógenes Orjuela Elected President.

– For the First Time, a President Inaugurates the Basic Wages Concertation Commission.

– Inter-American Human Rights Commission Accepts Lawsuit Filed against Colombia for Prohibiting Conventional Pensions.

– Two Brazilians, two Colombians, a Chilean and a Peruvian Awarded Prizes in ENS Latin American Photography Competition (Concurso latinoamericano de fotografía).

Lea el resumen en español: Resumen del mes de octubre de 2018


October 8

 Shortage of Decent Work and Protection for the Aged Persists in Colombia

Within the framework of the World Days for Decent Work, the National Trade Union School ENS issued a special report about Colombia’s current economic, labour and trade union standing, based on the pillars proposed by ILO: job generation, basic labour rights, social protection and social dialogue, issues in which the country continues to reveal shortages.

Here are some of the results found upon the basis of data from 2017, regarding the scarcity of Decent Work in Colombia.

 Employment only grew 1% compared to 2016. There were 226.400 new jobs created. For the most part, they were hardly ever steady jobs, not granting stability, security or steady incomes. One out of two economically-active people lack Decent Work.

There is still an enormous amount of informal jobs in Colombia. In its capital cities, it amounts to 60% of total employment. In rural areas, it amounts to 87.3%.

In urban areas, unemployment for males between 14 and 28 was 14.5%, and for females in the same age range it was 21.8%. There are 20.8% of youngsters categorised as “Ninis”, which means they neither work nor study, and when they do happen to find jobs, in 61.4% of the cases it is in the informal sector.

70% of the economically-active population earns less than 1.5 basic wages. This ties in with wealth distribution: only 33.5% of the economy’s total income was destined to paying salaries. The difference in income between men and women was 17.6 points, in spite of the fact that women have higher educational levels: an average of 9.7 years, compared to 8.6 years among men.

Only 38.6% of workers contribute to a pension system, and only 34 of each 100 adults over 60 actually benefit from a pension.

Child labour rate was 7.3% (in 2016 it was 7.8%). For every 100 boys, girls or adolescents who work, 56 don´t earn wages. The rural sector displays 44.4% of child labour.

The rural area accounts for 21.9% of jobs in the country, but only 12.4% of all rural workers have a written contract. Self-standing work amounts to 52.5%, while wage workers, the only ones who receive legal labour coverage, only account for 33.4%. With regard to social security, only 15.5% of the rural economically active population contributes to the health system, and only14.1% are paying towards a pension plan, while the subsidised regime absorbs 41.6% of those who have jobs, mainly in the informal sector of the economy.

The rate of workers excluded from labour risk coverage is 54.3%, and this without even considering the percentage of those who are under-registered, which is quite high.

Trade union affiliation in Colombia amounts to only 5% of EAP, one of the lowest rates in the world. The rate in the private sector is only 2.4%, while in the public sector it is 42%.

Attacks against trade union leaders and activists continue to hinder the exercise of trade union liberties. So far in 2018, 123 social leaders and 23 trade union members have been assassinated, crimes particularly committed in the rural sector. Furthermore, another 193 cases of violations to the freedom and physical integrity of trade union members have been registered.

The year 2017 was the year registering the greatest number of protest actions in 25 years: 386 actions, 309 of them rallies, sit down actions or marches, and 52 strikes. The strike carried out by pilots against the national airline Avianca, which was declared illegal, is worth highlighting.



October 9

CUT Renewed its Top Staff. Diógenes Orjuela Elected New President

Starting October, the Unitary Workers Federation (Central Unitaria de Trabajadores) carried out its elections to renew the National Executive Committee, departmental staff and FECODE Directors. FECODE is the largest teachers union in the country.

There were 32 candidates aspiring to form part of the 21-member National Executive Committee. Only two women were elected among the 21 members. Luis Eduardo Varela Rebellón was the most voted. He got 22.028 out of the total 324.082 votes throughout the country.

Once elected, the 21 members of the Executive Committee allocated posts for the coming four years. Diógenes Orjuela was nominated President and Fabio Arias was elected district attorney, having obtained the second largest vote count.

 There were 230.962 teachers eligible to vote at the Colombian Teachers Federation FECODE, and 78.8% of them voted. The new Executive Committee, composed of 15 people, chose Nelson Alarcón Suárez as President.

Female participation has grown, as the new Committee includes four women. Two women got the third and fourth highest amount of votes, which is the first time this happens. Historically, women have been almost absent from FECODE.

This new FECODE executive committee has the immediate challenge of leading the teachers’ struggle with the government, so that the current Administration finally honours the agreements undersigned last year by the former Santos Administration, agreements reached after a strike lasting more than one month.



October 27

For the First Time, a President Inaugurates the Minimum Wage Concertation Commission

On October 25, the Minimum Wage Concertation Commission met formally. This body, created by constitutional mandate, deals with labour-related policies and defines minimum wage increases yearly. This year, recently-elected President Duque was present, something an occasion that had never occurred in the 22 years of existence of this Commission.

President Duque said that he sought to show his government’s interest in social dialogue and three-way agreement. Likewise, he wished to ratify once more the so called “Treaty for Decent Work”, which was launched on October 9, undersigned by entrepreneurs and two of the main trade union federations, CGT and CTC. CUT, the other main trade union federation, did not join the treaty.

Although the object of this session was to start discussing the 2019 minimum wage raise, the subject was not addressed due to lack of time. It was agreed that the Commission will meet again on November 22, present its discussion agenda and have each sector express its own ideas.

Diógenes Orjuela, new CUT President, has voiced his pessimism about the effects of the Decent Work Treaty proposed by President Duque. He judges it full of contradictions, and more theoretical than realistic. “It doesn´t even mention the terms trade unions, collective agreements or respect for trade union freedom”. He goes on to say that this Administration sings the praises of Decent Work, but does not comply with any of the ILO’s demands, or with the rest of the treaties Colombia has subscribed and which demand eliminating outsourcing and other abusive forms of employment.

 CGT declared the presence of President Duque as “historic”, saying that it gives a special value to the Commission and to three-way dialogue. Its President, Julio Roberto Gómez, advocating the Decent Work Treaty, affirms this treaty will facilitate following-up the development of labour policies under ILO guidelines. But he also stressed the existence of agreements undersigned in the past and which were never endorsed, for example, collective pay-backs to trade unions as victims of the armed conflict and with regard to pensions, among other things.

 The CTC confederation, which also undersigned the Decent Work Treaty, highlighted the presence of President Duque as a “pat in the back” for the Commission, considering it a positive sign that the President referred explicitly to labour issues, also making emphasis on the informal labour sector and outsourcing.



October 30

 IAHRC Accepts Lawsuit against Colombia for Prohibiting Conventional Pensions

In 2005, the Colombian Congress approved Law 001, dismantling pensions agreed to under previous collective labour agreements, and eliminating the possibility of negotiating pension rights. The following year, the Sintraisa, Sintraisagen and Sintrachivor trade unions filed a formal complaint against this Law before the Inter-American Human Rights Commission (Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos CIDH), for purportedly violating international agreements and treaties undersigned by Colombia.

Last October 12, after 12 years addressing this Human Rights Commission, said Commission admitted the demand to declare Law 001 null, after analysing the arguments and data relayed to it by the trade unions, as well as the responses of the Colombian Administration. The Commission considers it feasible that Law 001 violates rights consecrated in the five Articles of the American Convention, as well as Article 8 on trade union rights, which is part of the San Salvador Protocol, agreeing they negatively affect workers affiliated to the trade unions involved.

Sintraisagen President Óscar Vallejo, celebrated the fact that the lawsuit has been accepted, as this suggests that there points violating human labour rights are contained in said Law. “But we cannot be over-confident, there is still a long and complicated path to follow”, he added.

An ILO Commission of Experts had already said that Law 001 of 2005 implies unilaterally modifying the content of collective agreements, which contradicts the principles of collective negotiation and the acquired rights of the parties involved. But the Colombian Administration has ignored ILO recommendations, a stance supported by a ruling of its Constitutional Court.

The Commission’s acceptance of the lawsuit paves the way to a second 4-month phase, during which the trade unions involved and the Colombian Administration are to provide new arguments or reinforce the arguments they have already presented. Then the Commission may decide whether to invite both parties to a conciliation meeting and try to reach a negotiated solution.

In case the State is found responsible and it does not comply with the Commission’s recommendations, this Human Rights Commission will relay the lawsuit to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, which will then make its ruling and issue a definitive sentence.



October 12


Two Brazilians, Two Colombians, One Chilean and One Peruvian Win Latin American Photography Competition

The National Trade Union School ENS announce the winners of its 24th Latin American Competition of Documentary Photography “Labour and Days” (Concurso Latinoamericano de Fotografía Documental “Los trabajos y los días”); 6.473 photographs by 1.213 photographers in 33 countries were received.

The Jury consisted of Eric Bauer, from France; Nilo Biazzetto Neto, from Brazil; and Guillermo Correa Montoya, from Colombia, and the three awarded the prizes to two Brazilians, two Colombians, one Chilean and one Peruvian.

 The category ‘Men Working’ was won by Daniel Vidal Pollarolo, from Chile, for his work entitled “Weaving Nets”, which the jury declared: “Is an image of great conceptual and aesthetic strength. It conveys a life history, not only of the fisherman portrayed, but of many other workers dedicated to small-scale fishing”.

In the category ‘Women Working’, the winner was Guillermo Gutiérrez Carrascal, from Peru. His work “Women at the Heights”, a series of 5 photographs, “shows the living space of independent women artisans and housewives, who often live under very vulnerable conditions. It encapsulates the life of the woman portrayed with great poetic sense”.

 The category ‘Children Working’ was won by Tales Miceli Fava, from Brazil, with the work “Girl Pirates”. According to the jury, “It accurately captures the dynamics of two little girls who board boats along the Amazon River and offer their wares. It clearly shows the strength and courage that these girls have, while carrying about their chores”.

The category ‘Domestic Work and the Caretaker Economy’ was won by Tadeu Vilani, from Brazil, with the work “Every Home Has a Mother”. About this series of 5 images, the jury stated: “This shows that being disabled is not a limitation on its own, and that limits are personally imposed. Without a condescending attitude or any pity, the photographer enhances the dignity and working capacity of women caretakers”.

 In the category ‘Migrant Work’, the prize was awarded to Sebastián Atehortúa González, from Colombia, with the work “Wherever Destiny Takes Us”. Of this series of 5 photographs, the jury declared:“It speaks to us of the reinvention of life among those who leave their homeland back and seek work wherever possible in order to survive. It is a finely-told tale, with the optimal choice to use black and white in order to describe the everyday life of a working migrant”.

The last category, ‘Rural Work in Colombia’, was won by Daniel López Gutiérrez, from Colombia. Of this series of 5 photographs entitled “Cacao picker”, the jury says: “This beautiful black and white series narrates the life of a very strong woman who works in the cropping and plucking of cacao beans. Using atypical angles and zooms, the photographer composes well-assembled pieces telling a story as they describe the craft”.


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