Colombia’s Oil Strike Background

Following up on an earlier post — the Colombian oil workers of the Union Sindical Obrera, USO, are on strike trying to prevent the further privatization of the state oil company, ECOPETROL. The UK-Colombia Solidarity Campaign sent around this communique which they translated: it has some useful background on the strike situation.

INTERNATIONAL COMMUNIQUE

THE OIL WORKERS UNION STRIKE HAS STARTED

USO, the United Workers Union, the union of the Colombian oil workers has voted to start a general strike in all the industrial installations of the state company ECOPETROL from 22nd April 2004. The strike came as a last resource in view of the submissive policies of the Uribe government to the United States and the IMF; its arrogance towards the workers and our country, which have resulted in the dangerous situation, this Colombian company finds itself in.

For 17 months USO made efforts to reach an agreement to save ECOPETROL and for the rights of its workers to be respected. However, the proposals for talks presented by the union were answered with repressive measures such as the taking over of the plants by the armed forces, the refusal to let the union leaders into the plants, legal actions were started, union leaders and workers were fired and the government threatened to declare the strike illegal if it was started.

At the same time the government has implemented new policies that lead to the privatisation of the company. It decided to extend the association contracts of gas in the Guajira, of oil in Sabana de Torres y Cano Limon, to the benefit of the multinationals CHEVRON TEXACO and OXY. It also reactivated the Concesion Moderna contract by which the multinationals get 100% of the oil production making strategic alliances with OXY, SCHULEMBERGER and BP among others. Besides, it announced the sale of the Cartagena refinery and has intentionally abandoned the maintenance of the Barrancabermeja Complex in order to facilitate its dismantling and later privatisation.

The truth of the matter is that the national company ECOPETTROL is being privatised obeying the interests of the United States government. They have decided to take control of the world’s oil as we have seen in their invasion of Afghanistan, Iraq, Venezuela, Bolivia and Mexico with different methods, but all with the same aim in mind: to ensure the appropriation of oil.

In the past days the management have decided to impose a veto against the union leaders and to expel the workers for the Barrancabermeja and Cartagena refineries, a measure that they have vowed to apply to all other production centres. While it threatens to declare the strike illegal, it is actually stopping production because of supposed sabotage; using this also to apply repressive measures.

In view of this, the Uribe government and the ECOPETROL management have obliged the workers to start a STRIKE MOVEMENT to defend ECOPETROL, the workers’ rights and the existence of the Oil Workers Union. At the same time the leaders of the union in a brave attitude have declared a Hunger Strike supporting the workers’ fair demands.

The Workers Central Union is strongly committed in this fight, as well as the rest of the Colombian union movement. The unions have declared their support to this movement that seeks to defend our national patrimony.

As a result, we call on the national and international union movement, all social and popular organisations, and all democratic forces and in general to all those citizens that care about the fate of our nation to accompany and support us in our fight.

22nd April 2004

Please send messages to the following address:

Álvaro Uribe: auribe@presidencia.gov.co

with copies and solidarity messages to:

Comisión Paz USO usopaz@tutopia.com

Departamento de Derechos Humanos CUT derechoshumanos@cut.org.co

Uso Nacional usocol@col1.telecom.com.co

International Commission United Workers Union (USO)

Justin Podur

Author: Justin Podur

Author of Siegebreakers. Ecology. Environmental Science. Political Science. Anti-imperialism. Political fiction. Teach at York U's FES. Author. Writer at ZNet, TeleSUR, AlterNet, Ricochet, and the Independent Media Institute.