The practice of setting up fake ‘associated workco-operatives’ has become such a problem in Colombia that the government has outlawed them. Despite being named, shamed and fined by the Labour Ministry, Avianca continues to use the tactic – leading to 130 ground staff workers taking industrial action to uphold the law last week. The airline then sacked them.
Despite having their access cards cancelled the workers are holding a sit-in at Bogota’s El Dorado airport. The Ministry of Labour had been investigating Avianca’s use of ‘associative work co-operatives’, but the company dismissed the workers when it was shut for its weekend break.
ITF general secretary Steve Cotton today wrote to the president of Colombia, stating: We are informed of the actions that the Ministry of Labor of your country has been implementing to require the regularisation of the workers who were subjected to this situation … and we are genuinely shocked by the decision of Avianca, which has decided to use other workers to replace strikers and order the dismissal of the strikers unilaterally and abusively. For your knowledge, at the moment there is a group of workers within the internal area of the airport in terrible conditions, both precarious and inhumane, under plastic covers. Allegedly Avianca, through its subcontracted ‘co-operative’, has made known that whoever comes to give them food or supplies will also be dismissed, thus generating a climate of fear for the other workers who question the rule of law in Colombia. In addition, dozens of workers who are outside of the airport have already been notified of the dismissal and have been barred from entering to meet with their colleagues.
We therefore request your urgent and decisive intervention to ensure that the rights of workers in Avianca hired directly or through ‘associated work co-operatives’ are safeguarded, avoiding redundancies and formalising the employment relationship with Avianca, which is the corporate entity responsible for the employment relationship, and which benefits from their work.