Despite its public statements accepting the right of trade union organization, in practice BP has refused to enter a collective agreement with the National Oil Workers Union USO or recognizing any of the principal elements of trade union recognition. USO organizers that have tried have been driven out of the region or into exile.
There has been an upsurge in workers and community protests against BP in Casanare since the beginning of 2010. Workers at the Tauramena Central Processing Facility (CPF) starting 22 January went in strike supported by USO, the National Oil Workers Union of Colombia. On 15 February riot police brutally attacked the picket line, sending three workers to hospital. Demonstrations and popular assemblies in support of the stoppage took place in Tauramena and surrounding villages from February onwards. The USO union and many different community sectors came together to form the Movement for the Dignity of Casanare. The strike ended after 30 days when BP promised talks.
BP agreed to enter negotiations and there have since been five commissions dealing with labour issues, the environment, local supply of goods and services, social investment and human rights. The community has deep and long standing grievances. Environmental damage, for example, is extensive stemming from BP’s production practices such as diverting water sources underground to pressure up the oil; contamination from gas flaring and ground failures from seismic testing.
The workers and community report that BP has not taken the negotiations seriously. At first the corporation attempted to decide who the community and labour representatives would be, but this was thwarted by a letter signed by three thousand residents naming their representatives. Next BP threatened legal action because of complaints against it in a Petition of Demands presented to it by the union and the community. Then BP swamped the community with leaflets claiming what a great corporation it is. Finally, and despite other provocations, initial ‘pre-agreements’ were negotiated in the commissions concerning the environment, local supplies, social investment and human rights; but BP has continued to block substantive progress towards accepting the right of a collective agreement covering its workers, and those employed by its subsidiaries and contractors, at the CPF plant.
The workers and community wanted talks to resume on 12 May, but BP has delayed this until 23 June. Meanwhile threats against community and union leaders began to grow, which is grave indeed given the history of elimination of community leaders in the recent past.
On 21 May workers involved in construction operations in the Tauramena installation entered into occupation demanding: a wage increase; the establishment a wage scale; due process in disciplinary decisions; and labour guarantees for the workers. On 2 June army forces entered the plant and at time of writing are harassing the workers, who stay overnight chaining themselves to plant equipment so that they cannot be dislodged.
Colombia Solidarity Campaign, 6 June 2010
Public Hearing On BP’s Activities In Colombia
Casanare: Exhuming the Genocide – DVD eye witness statements from relatives. £3 (members free)
New documentary online video: Big Oil In Colombia
USO Workers Front Strike Bulletins (various editions) http://www.colombiasolidarity.org.uk
Workers attacked by ESMAD riot police http://colombia.indymedia.org/news/2010/02/111585.php
Military Inside the Tauramena CPE plant http://www.youtube.com/user/eldiatv#p/a/u/0/k8pv-FCIPn4
Colombian Army Attacks Striking BP Workers article http://upsidedownworld.org
London Picket Photos http://www.demotix.com/news/346779/bp-picket-colombian-oil-workers
London Picket 2 June Video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=udl9CioEblI
This union branch / body sends our solidarity greetings to Colombian oil workers in the USO branch in Tauramena, Casanare and to the Movement for the Dignity of Casanare. We support these organisations’ demands for a collective agreement, full trade union recognition and to a negotiated solution to the community’s concerns on the environment, supply of goods and services, social investment and human rights.
We are gravely concerned for the safety of USO workers who have occupied the Tauramena production facility since 21 May and urge satisfaction of their demands for a wage increase; a wage scale; due process in disciplinary decisions; and labour guarantees for the workers which we consider the absolute minimum for respectful indutrial relations
We condemn the hostile attitude of the management of BP and urge the corporation to significantly adjust its position and enter into negotiations with USO and the Movement for the Dignity of Casanare constructively and in good faith.
We further condemn the aggression of the Colombian state as evidenced in the police attack on the workers picket line and the army’s occupation of the plant.
This branch pledges our full support to USO, the National Oil Workers Union of Colombia, and to the Movement for the Dignity of Casanare.
We agree to send a message expressing our concerns to BP.
We endorse the weekly pickets of BP Group headquarters in London and affiliate to the Colombia Solidarity Campaign.
We agree to send a message of solidarity to USO and a donation of £ ___________.
Contacts and further information:
Colombia Solidarity Campaign, PO Box 8446, London N17 6NZ