Summary for the Month of April 2019

Here we offer you the summaries of the 6 most relevant news items issued by AIL during the month of April 2019:

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– The future of labour in Colombia: realities and challenges. ENS Report on  labour and trade union overviews for 2018.

–  National day-long strike on April 25 was felt in the public sector.

– The trade union movement honours its victims on April 9.

– Trade unions express their will to help find truth within the framework of ongoing peace process.

– “Actors’ Law” makes its way in Congress and passes to final debate.


April 30

The Future of Labour in Colombia: Realities and Challenges. Overview for 2018

To commemorate May 1, International Labour Day, ENS issued its annual overview on labour and trade unions for 2018, focussing on the future of labour and the challenges posed by changes in technological and production modes.

According to ENS report, the shortage of Decent Work continues to exist, evidenced in high unemployment rates, based largely on informal work and self-employment forming, outsourcing and low capacity to undertake collective bargaining. The country’s economy is based on oil and mining extraction, yet the two sectors contribute only 0.9% of national employment.

Between 2013 and 2017, 1´075.908 enterprises were created, but 1´011.613 of them (94%) went bankrupt. This is due mainly to the fact that entrepreneurship in Colombia behaves reactively. State policies do not particulary cater to entrepreneurship or make resources available. More than innovation and creativity, too often what pushes people to create frail start-up companies, is their own lack of stable and decent work. These are the relevant facts:

– Self-employment accounts for 44% of the more than 22 million Economically Active Population (EAP) in Colombia, totalling 9´791.000 self-employed.

–  65.7% of the country’s workers are active in the informal sector. This percentage rises to 87% in the rural sector.

– 70% of the total labour force earns less than 1.5 of the minimum monthly wage, which is inferior to the cost of basic family expenditure.

– In 2017, 530 enterprises negotiated 581 collective conventions, benefitting 156.870 workers. Only 4.6% of the EAP belongs to a trade union organization.  

-Female occupation rate is 47% and unemployment 12.7%, 3 points above the national average, and 5.3 points above male rates. The rate of women working in the informal sector is 65.1%.

– The difference in income between men and women is 17.6 points. Women earned 82.4% of what men earned, although having higher educational levels. Their average education was 9.7 years, compared to 8.6 years for men.

– Only 38.8% of the EAP have some sort of health coverage,17.6% belong to a pension fund and 16% have labour-risk coverage.

– Unemployment among young people continues to almost double the rate of the general population. Young people account for 47% of the unemployed. Among 100 young people of legal working age, 42 are unemployed. The labour rate in the informal sector for young people is 62.9%.

– As far as social security is concerned, only 41.1% of EAP among youngsters contribute to health coverage, 38.3% to a pension scheme and 39.9% to a labour-risk scheme.

– Only 39% of young people have a written labour contract. As far as their salaries are concerned, the average salary for young people is 265 dollars, lower than the average for the general population, which is 313 dollars.

– 21.7% of young people are ‘Ninis’, which means they don’t work, study or are seeking employment. Young women are more affected by this condition.  


April 24

National Day-Long Strike Had an Impact on Public Sector

Called by the National Unitarian Central (Comando Nacional Unitario or CNU, integrated by CUT, CGT and CTC, the country’s three main trade unions) and organisations from different social, student and alternative politics sectors, a national day-long strike was held on April 25 to protest against the tax, labour and pension reforms included in President Duque’s proposed National Development Plan, and also to defend the 2016 Peace Accords and the Special Peace Jurisdiction (Justicia especial para la paz).

Around 60.000 people joined these mobilizations in Bogota, starting out from different sites and converging at Plaza de Bolivar. Similar demonstrations took place in other large and intermediary cities all over the country.

The halt in activities was strongly felt in the public sector. According to  Diogenes Orjuela, President of CUT, civil servants ceased working that day in approximately 20 State enterprises, and at other workplaces there was no strike as such, yet they did hold pickets and information assemblies, or carry out other activities disrupting the normal labour routine.

State civil servants protested against the issues contemplated in the National Development Plan that they consider unacceptable. Hardly any advances have been made in the negotiation of a National State Convention, and the lack of political will to resolve the serious problems public servants confront is evident.

The National Unitary Central CNU declares that the Administration’s Development Plan contains economic policies and reforms which do not comply with the country’s development needs, nor contribute to the population’s general wellbeing. In the labour area, it seeks to increase labour flexibility and informality. Regarding pensions, it seeks to strengthen private pension funds and allow pensions to fall below the minimum wage level.

With respect to peace, CNU stresses that the constant attacks against peace on a nation-wide scale carried out by reactionary sectors, demands defending the peace accords reached between the State and the FARC guerrillas, and this involves continuity in reaching political solutions, condemning the assassinations of social leaders, and guaranteeing the right to social protests.

Fecode, the country’s largest trade union with over 300.000 teachers affiliated to it, actively participated in the day-long strike, taking part in the so-called peaceful ‘siege’ of the capital Bogota and other provincial capitals. Teachers denounce that the Administration has not fulfilled the promises reached in an earlier agreement; that their health coverage leaves much to be desired; that they continue to receive threats; that teachers and human rights defenders are regularl getting killed, and that the current Development Plan places emphasises the privatization of public education.


April 9

Trade Union Movement Honoured its Victims on April 9

April 9 is the date chosen in Colombia to commemorate its victims of violence; to remember and put names and faces to the fallen, and verify the magnitude of the suffering that the armed struggle has inflicted, both to the population at large and to trade unions in particular, which have borne a large number of victims.

ENS keeps a record of anti-trade union violence in Colombia and has so far documented 14.858 cases between January 1973 and the present. This sum includes 3.191 homicides, 7.314 cases of threats, and 1.900 cases of forced displacement.

In the greater majority of these cases, the authors of these crimes remain unidentified. Among the cases known, the paramilitaries account for 3.771 human rights violations, State agencies 1.134 human rights violations and the guerrillas 456 human rights violations.

This is the reason why the different trade union actors express the need for institutions such as the Special Justice for Peace and the Commission for the Clarification of the Truth, to make justice and provide the whole truth about the conflict, guaranteeing that there will be no repetition.

With regard to reparation for the trade union movement, an official body has already been designated to achieve this, called the Reparation Table for Trade Union Movement (Mesa de Reparación al Sindicalismo), which was created by Presidential Decree of April 18, 2016, under the Santos Administration, yet as of today has never convened.


April 9

Trade Unions Express their Will to Clarify the Truth

The Truth Commission, a body forming part of the system of transitional justice created as a result of the 2016 Peace Accords between the State and the FARC guerrilla, has met with trade unions in palm, cement and other industries, in order to make it possible for these unions to be recognised as victims of the armed conflict and make visible the violence which affected them.

A meeting was held between Commissioner Lucía González at the USO headquarters in the city of Barrancabermeja, with participation from the Sintraproaceites, Sintrapalma, Sintrainagro and Sutimac trade unions. ENS and the Lawyers’ Bureau Colectivo de Abogados José Alvear Restrepo provided guidance and support.

Attending trade unions expressed their will to participate in the process of truth clarification, with the hope of achieving reconciliation and non-repetition. It is crucial to be able to answer questions like ‘Why did hiring policies give way to violence? Who were the people interested in making strikes lose legitimacy and promoting the activities of cooperatives that sought to destroy trade unions? Who were those wanting to exterminate trade unionists?

“Violence left hundreds of palm oil and cement trade unionists assassinated, and with the alternative political party Unión Patriótica totally exterminated, the labour atmosphere reigning then promoted dismantling labour conquests”, said one of the participants.

Just the Sutimac trade union had 38 trade union leaders murdered in the Magdalena Medio region during the past 4 decades, not counting those threatened or forced to flee. For example, the Sub-Directorate Caracolí de Cementos del Nare used to have more than 200 workers, now it only has 42.


April 1

“Actors’ Law” Makes its Way in Congress, Passing to Final Debate

Good news for actors and actresses in Colombia. The VII Senate Commission approved the so-called “Actors’ Law” during a third debate, and now it will move on to a final debate before Congress.

This law establishes a set of measures for the promotion and protection of  people in the acting profession, to dignify the art, foster professional training and guarantee actors their labour and cultural rights.

Julio Correal, President of the Colombian Actors Association (Asociación Colombiana de Actores ACÁ) expressed his satisfaction at the step taken, and trusts that Congress will grant enough political support to get the law approved.The law has been making the rounds since April 2016, and it is about time it is finally passed.

In Correal’s opinión, the law proposal has already accomplished its aim, which was to start a debate about the situation of the acting profession in this country, their working conditions when on film or recording sets. Since the acting profession is not regulated and has no official statutes, actors are subjected to many injustices, when not to flagrant abuses. Furthermore, many actors reach old age in a state of severe illness and overall abandonment.

Most actors and actresses never make it to becoming famous stars, and they have very little power to negotiate fair working conditions, finding themselves in a very vulnerable position. “Some actors can´t even afford to pay their rent or their transportation and, as many have to record or perform in the evenings, the broadcasting stations or theatres where they work don´t even cover their taxi fares. This law is bound to take a great load off their shoulders”, observes actress Endry Cardeño.


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