A general meeting of Colombian oil workers union USO meeting in Barrancabermeja decided yesterday, 26 March, to go on strike.
After 40 days of negotiations with directors of state oil corporation ECOPETROL the two sides have not agreed even one article in the Collective Agreement. The union is due to meet Mines Minister, Luis Ernesto Mejía this Friday in a last ditch effort to save negotiations. But USO spokesman Roberto Schmalbach told the press that the union had arrived at "Hour Zero". USO's executive has been empowered to call a general stoppage at immediate notice.
The war on Iraq has entered as a factor in an already tense labour conflict.
Diego Palacio, Minister for Social Protection, has warned that if the strike goes ahead it will be declared illegal, since state oil is an essential service.
The heightened risk for USO members on the brink of a national strike cannot be overstated. International human rights organisations and supporters of democracy in Colombia should be on high alert. USO has lost 88 members to assassinations in recent years, and is a constant target for political persecution. Moreover, like SINTRAEMCALI and workers in other state sectors such as telecommunications, health and education, it is on the front line of the latest round of privatisation plans encapsulated in Uribe's "National Development Plan".
Send messages of support to USO at e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
with copies to: