Colombia: Palm workers strike for their rights

Thousands of palm oil workers in the Puerto Wilches district, Colombia, were on general strike on October 27. The workers were defending collective bargaining and opposing the spread of casualisation and precarious work on palm oil farms.

In early August, a major company, Palmas Oleaginosas Bucarelia, refused to enter into meaningful negotiations with the agricultural workers’ union Sintrainagro for the renewal of the collective agreement.

Bucarelia instead proposed to cut benefits, restrict union activity on the farm and increase precarious work through more use of outsourced labour.

At the end of August, Bucarelia workers decided to call a strike and set up a protest camp in front of the company.

The company continued to insist on acceptance of its opening proposal to cut benefits and increase the use of outsourced labour. At the end of September, workers from the other palm oil farms in the area decided to join the strike.

Tension in the region rose on October 12. While workers were attending a meeting at the office of the labour ministry in Bucaramanga, the employers brought in carloads of people from other municipalities to try to force workers to return to the farms.

These “protesters” were accompanied by the police and the mayor of Puerto Wilches.

The union has issued a global call for solidarity. You can sign and send a letter of support for the palm oil farm workers to Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos at www.iuf.org.

[Abridged from www.iuf.org.]

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