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Wednesday, 21 April 2010 19:32

The Movement for the Dignity of the Casanare

The Movement for the Dignity of the Casanare presented a Petition of Demands to BP inColombia on 23 March 2010. The movement supported a 30 day long strike at the CentralProcessing Facility in Tauramena, Casanare, which ended at the end of February 2010.

The Movement for the Dignity of the Casanare includes national Oil Workers UnionUSO, transporters, the Business and Employers Council, the Upamena Community, the IquiaCommunity, COS-PACC, Red Antorcha, Radio Suba al Aire, CENSAT (Friends of the Earth), Joint Traders, the U'wa Indigenous Community, Christian Aid, El Turbion newspaper, Familiares Colombia and other independent sectors.

The petition includes serious complaints against BP's conduct, but also offers a constructivestance with specific proposals to be carried forward in a negotiation process. The next phase oftalks is due to take place in Casanare 14-16 April 2010.

SUMMARY OF DEMANDS

This summary contains five themes (labour, environment, goods and services, human rights and social investment). The labour part refers to the subscription of the Collective Agreement between USO (Union Sindical Obrera) and BP (British Petroleum Exploration) and OCENSA, so that the latter implement it through each one of its contractors and subcontracting firms.

In general, the petition that is here presented is constituted through clauses which indicate reciprocal duties and obligations of the parties, intended to affirm the efficacy of agreement norms. Regulations of an economic order are highlighted in the petition.


I. LABOUR NEGOTIATIONS

The express demand is the signing of a Collective Agreement in which the meetings of minds amongst workers (represented by the Union Sindical Obrera) and the employer (BP and OCENSA) is established, so that the latter implement it through each one of its contractors and subcontracting firms with the objective of regulating labour conditions which individual work contracts set out while in effect. This is according to that established in article 55 of the Political Constitution of Colombia that guarantees the right to collective bargaining to regulate labour relations, and established in article 467 of the Substantive Labour Code. Once the Agreement is agreed to by the two parties, it is presented and established before the Ministry of Social Protection.


Content of the Summary of Petitions of the Movement with regards labour rights:

  • Respect for trade union freedoms and the right of association

  • Labour rights and salary increases: stability, social welfare, wage and pay scale, food, work week,health and social welfare, contractual obligations

  • Right to Defence: procedures for applying sanctions and complaints

  • Trade Union Rights.

  • Permits for the elaboration and negotiation of petition demands.


  1. ENVIRONMENTAL NEGOTIATIONS

The impacts and damage are reflected in the very indicators coming from the communities on the basis of their knowledge of the region and the changes which have been evident since the beginning of oil exploitation. These are well beyond the statistics and technical tables that are presented by the company which, moreover, are the product of hard manipulation. The community indicators are the following:


  • Due to seismic testing, the layer of topsoil has been removed causing the water table to sink. As a result, the sources of water and natural water wells have dried up.

  • The waters used for human consumption have been contaminated by the poor management of tailing ponds and waste.

  • There are no fish because of the contamination of the rivers and canals, or due to the lack of water.

  • Land erosion has appeared in the zone. There are farms in which holes or recesses have formed in the ground. Faced with this situation, the owners had had to close them so that the calves, which are a fundamental part of the peasant economy, would not fall in them.

  • Sound contamination. Different equipment and machinery have been brought that generate more than 140 decibels of sound, producing deafness amongst staff who are not then re-contracted because they have hearing problems.

  • Light contamination. The flares produce a lot of light at night, which has brought about the death and displacement of particular species because of the permanent artificial light in the zone.

  • Atmospheric contamination is high. The contamination caused by the burning of gas may be the cause of various infirmities.


In light of the lack of efficiency of regional environmental organisms, the communities consider it necessary to implement activities that seek to evaluate the damage and search for compensation.


PROPOSALS AND PETITIONS

1. To evaluate the damage produced by the exploration and exploitation of oil by an expert commission (formed by the community, business and independent experts named by the community). To support specialized organizations in efforts to resolve the problem. To public a report on the results.

2. To do independent studies of environmental liabilities and quantification of the environmental debt.

3. To advance with recourse to the respective laws in the event of legal responsibilities and set in motion plans for reparation and correction.

4. To supply the gas that is flared off to the inhabitants of Tauramena.

5. To reestablish the course of the Cusiana river.

6. To create spaces of public debate.

7. That the municipality has a voice and vote in the environmental committees of BP.

8. To create and implement a joint inter-institutional environmental committee, made up of different entities and experts in order to give priority to projects, policies and programmes to be developed in this sector.

 

III. GOODS AND SERVICES NEGOTIATIONS

The contracting and subcontracting firms do not purchase in the city, and lack any commitment to the Tauramenera corporation; in order to protect certain improper commercial practices and to avoid such practices becoming known in the municipality, they buy from outside.

Local commerce is not stable and becomes less sustainable each day. There is not a clear purchasing policy that contributes to the competitivity of businesses of the municipality.

There is no differentiated treatment between small, medium and big business. The autonomy of business in the region is not being respected.


PROPOSALS AND PETITIONS

1. Purchasing goods and services directly from merchants of the municipality.

2. A study to evaluate the weaknesses and threats to business in Tauramena.

3. Promoting financing n the region, through investment funds.

4. Fair licensing practices.

5. Constructing a clear policy and rules.

6. Implementing a programme of Association for Competitivity ("Asociatividad para la Competitividad"), a private-public alliance that strengthens the dynamic of integration and articulation between collective productive projects in the municipality.

7. Generating policies and credit lines that permit the business owner in Tauramena to grow, supporting the municipal seed money.


IV. HUMAN RIGHTS NEGOTIATIONS

In Casanare, the violation of human rights in all its principles and categories has been proven through different reports of national and international human rights organizations. These reports conclude that oil extraction has a relation with crimes of violating and infringing upon human rights and fundamental rights of the inhabitants, which is expressed by the following facts:


  • Violation of the Right of Association and to Work: The right of association is not guaranteed in so far as workers that unionize are blacklisted, and that the legality and legitimacy of the union is ignored. There is wages, benefits and regional discrimination. The village Associations charge for labour quotas, BP is aware of this situation and accepts it.

  • Right to Life: Within the areas of oil exploration and exploitation given as concessions by the Colombian State, all class of offences that affect the population have occurred: there are studies which detail 2653 cases of forced disappearances, approximately 9000 assassinations, threats, forced displacement, and infringements of the right to mobility; all of which has been generalized in a culture of fear. These violations have occurred because, for a long time, the communities have not been able to demand and press for their rights to the BP company.

  • Right to Property: Families in Casanare are being intimidated in order to force them to sell their farms. Small landowners have been obliged to sell and leave their farms by paramilitaries so that these lands are then used for oil exploration by BP. There are testimonies to this end involving where BP has sought landholdings.

  • Environmental Rights: The man-made erosion of the river beds constitutes an attack on life and the right to work, since the resources needed to live are reduced. This is being done through seismic exploration. BP gains control over water to inject it into its wells, diminishing the water available for use by the communities and the existence of living beings in the region in a notorious way.

  • Social Rights: Women in the region are discriminated against: she is relegated within the oil industry only to cleaning, cooking and security functions, jobs which occupy the lowest pay scale. The youth have no access to centres of technical training, to technology in general, nor universities in keeping with the necessities of the industry and the region. This puts them at a disadvantage when it conies to entering jobs needing qualified and specialized labour in the company.


PROPOSALS AND PETITIONS

1. That BP and its contractors fully respect and guarantee human and fundamental rights. This must be reflected in the acceptance of and agreement to the petitions that have been reached in the various negotiating tables. In the same sense, BP and contracting firms must commit themselves to desist from continuing to violate and infringing upon human rights.

2. That BP and contracting firms commit to respecting and fulfilling Conventions 87 and 88 of the UN adopted by the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

3. That an environmental assessment of oil exploitation in Casanare be conducted with a suitable entity, in order to validate the facts, calculate environmental liabilities and that reparations be made for the damage caused.

4. That BP and contracting firms facilitate and finance the completion of a capacity-building programme on human rights for all workers. In an autonomous way, the communities will develop the proposal with a suitable organisation.

5. A change in the Public Defender is requested, due to the fact that he has acted consistently against the rights of the communities and in favour of BP. He has not fulfilled the constitutional mandate with which he has been charged.

6. Due to the high levels of impunity, we are requested that the Commission on Human Rights of the Congress of the Republic conduct a public hearing in Tauramena to receive the testimonies of the victims and that the necessary legal procedures be initiated so that the truth is known and justice done.

7. BP, with the paternalistic manner and corruption created by its policies, has created serious obstacles to neighbourly relations between its zones of influence and the rest of the department. It is necessary that the businesses in question commit themselves to eradicating these policies and practices.

 

V. SOCIAL INVESTMENT NEGOTIATIONS

BP and OCENSA, which have had a strong presence in the municipality and in the department for many years, have not assumed their social responsibility with respect to the search for different alternatives to the oil sector. These corporations have limited themselves only to constructing small solutions in housing, capacity-building, and small-scale support to communal activities in the zones of influence, which do not reflect in the well-being of the community as a whole.

BP has ignored and continues to ignore the fact that social, environmental and labour problems affect the entire municipality and not only particularly influential sectors, as it always states. For this reason, the united community of the urban zone [Tauramena] (which shows the greatest index of poverty and unemployment) and all the other settlements ask that social investment be directed to projects of consequence and general interest, setting out to reduce the centrality of oil in our economy, which has significant resources, in keeping with the profits from oil rents. We start from the proposition that although BP has no legal obligation to carry out direct investments in the communities, it does have a historical debt with the department of Casanare that, amongst other things, is being demanded in the form of social investment.

Several questions have arisen from the community: is the revenue received as royalties being reflected in the development of the region and in social investment? How has the quality of life of the people of Casanare been improved through oil rents? Who is appropriating the oil rents? Why isn't it being put at the service of the populations that have suffered the direct and terrible consequences of the extraction of hydrocarbons?


PROPOSALS AND PETITIONS

1. The municipality in general should benefit from social investment, because the impact of the oil industry affects everyone.

2. An economic dependency on oil has been created. Creating new sources of employment that reduce the centrality of oil in the economy. That [further education institution] SENA present diversity in academic programmes suited to the needs and practices of the municipality. We need to think about the economic reconversion of the municipality in 10 years' time.

3. That short-, medium- and long-term projects be developed that create new opportunities for work, and that make economic independence from petroleum possible, in order to construct new economic lines in the municipality and in the department.

4. Strategies to make social investment effective: creating a fund for social investment administered by the community itself and with citizen oversight. If the communities themselves do not manage the resources, they typically do not arrive to the project they were destined for.

5. The creation of a Diploma Programme in Community Land Planning is proposed, in which the community of Tauramena will participate and with the duration of one (1) year. The result of this will be a Community Development Plan for Tauramena. The first step will be to conduct a diagnostic exercise in order to implement social investment.

6. The negotiating commission or interlocutor made up of spokespeople from the five tables will be transformed into an Intersectoral Municipal Table (community, administration, trades councils and unions).


Translated and distributed at the request of the Movement for the Dignity of the Casanare.

For more information contact email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Read about the BP AGM: Confronting Power with Solidarity

 

 

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