Workers at the BP processing plant at Tauramena, part of the Cusiana oil field in Casanare, Colombia went on strike on 22 January 2010 for improved wages. It was the first such labour stoppage in 18 years. On 15 February the notorious ESMAD ‘anti-mutiny’ police brutally attacked the workers picket line and the local community with teargas and beatings, three workers were hospitalised. The workers are members of the national Oil Workers Union USO that has only been able to organise in BP plants in the last year.
The workers are back at work, but the community mobilisations continue.
After a month of work stoppage and community protests, on 23 February BP at last met with the strikers and community representatives. The two sides reached a limited agreement, with some ambiguities. Earlier that day BP had tried to run a group of scabs through the picket line on the Tauramena Central Processing Facility (CPF), but the strikers chained themselves to the gates and successfully blocked the strike-breakers. The following day the 30 strikers at SAR Energy, the sub-contractor and their immediate employer, met with managers.
BP needs to recognise the harm it has done. Five negotiating commissions were going to be set up, dealing with labour problems, social investment, goods and services, environment and human rights. They were supposed to be inaugurated on 2 March, but the process nearly broke down due to BP’s arrogant attitude. On 7 March the community held a mass mobilization demonstrating the continuing anger. On 23 March the^ union USO and the community movement Movimiento de Dignidad por el Casanare presented their joint demands, BP promised to respond 14-16 April. We are waiting.
In the meantime, in the nearby city of Villavicencio at 11.1 Sam on Saturday 27 March two gunmen on a motorbike shot at USO union officials, fatally wounding their bodyguard.
Recommended solidarity actions:
Send protest messages to BP demanding the corporation conducts peaceful negotiations with USO, meets the workers just demands and guarantees no victimisation of union members; and that BP condemns the ESMAD police repression of its employees. Send your message to (£2.5 million a year) Executive Director and Group Chief Executive Tony Hayward at email: email@example.com Send messages of solidarity to the workers and community via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Join the Colombia Solidarity Campaign, we will be holding more solidarity events.
Colombia Solidarity Campaign London Branch meets at 7pm on the third Tuesday of the month
Colombia Solidarity Campaign. PO Box 8446, London N17 6NZ