Workers at Carbones del Cerrejón Limited (*) voted on 7 March 2016 over 98% in favor of a general strike. The workers’ union Sintracarbón states “It has not been the intention of the union to strike, we were confident that the company would understand the just demands of the workers and give a particular procedure and appropriate solution”.
The workers’ problems are serious. Their most difficult issue is health. 900 of the mine’s 13,000 workers suffer from illnesses caused by mining activity. They have diseases such as cancer and silicosis, presented mostly by people under 40 years. Neither the company nor the Guajira department can treat due to lack of specialized health centers. The corporation denies the existence of such health problems.
Another issue is increasing workload this year without corresponding wage increase.
Cerrejon’s bosses have sought to deny workers participation in trade union activities, directly affecting the stability of Sintracarbón. This goes against Article 39 of the Constitution of Colombia which enshrines freedom of association workers in unions without state intervention.
The environmental problem facing the population in La Guajira is another union demand. Most rivers in the department are dry because of mining . The workers have called for measures to protect the environment and restore water sources.
Source: Colombia Informa