"As peace becomes a reality we pay homage to all Colombian citizens in general, and in particular to all trade unionists, men and women alike, who lost their lives or were forced from their jobs and homes because of their fight for justice. We welcome the successful peace talks hosted by the Cuban government and look forward to the strengthening of a unified trade union movement in Colombia.
“This agreement sets up a path for peace that has long been promoted by Colombians and their unions, and removes the excuse that the appalling and continued murders of trade unionists were somehow an act of war. Even though this breakthrough will not affect the draconian anti-union tactics used by many Colombian employers, it will help remove the often literally fatal stigma of being a trade union leader or social activist.”
Esteban Barboza is the general secretary of the ITF-affiliated SNTT
(Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de Rama, Servicios de la Industria del Transporte y Logística de Colombia) union. He commented: “The peace agreement is a beacon, a major step in the right direction. Hundreds of thousands of Colombians, including thousands of union and human rights leaders and activists have laid down their lives to reach this point.”
“We hope that the peace will be permanent and that means for compensation will be established to address the suffering that has taken place. We hope too that all Colombians, united together, will enjoy genuine freedom, including trade union freedoms.”
ITF president Paddy Crumlin added: “For over fifty years Colombia has suffered an internal war that time and again has been used by vested interests as an excuse to try and remove all trade union rights and freedoms. Many of the country’s brightest and best have fallen victim to that five decade campaign of murder and intimidation. Ask any union member what they know about Colombia and they’ll tell you that it’s the most dangerous place in the world to be a trade unionist. Finally, we are seeing an opening, a real possibility for change. We wish wholeheartedly for its continuation and success, and that the yoke of assassination and fear be lifted from the shoulders of Colombia’s workers.”
ITUC (International Trade Union Confederation) general secretary Sharan Burrow commented: “Ending the pervasive targeting of trade unionists and embedding respect for fundamental workers’ rights are essential to a sustainable democracy and economic justice. Colombia is one of the most economically unequal countries in the world. Freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining are the key to tackling inequality, and social dialogue must be at the centre of the process from the beginning. Colombia’s trade unions have been strong advocates for peace throughout the conflict, along with other civil society organisations. They now have a major role to play in consolidating the ceasefire and charting a new direction for the country.”