Oil workers on 24 hours strike attacked by police and army

News from Colombia | on: Thursday, 2 March 2017

From before the break of dawn on 28 February 2017 close to 7,000 subcontracted workers from Colombia’s largest oil company Ecopetrol went on a 24 hour strike called by their union USO. The key demand of the union is to open up direct talks with Ecopetrol at a national level in order to discuss not only an end to third party contracting arrangements but issues such as a recent arbitrary reduction of up to 40% in salary as well as the removal of transport and food allowance for many of the workers.

The response to the strike from Ecopetrol and Colombia’s security forces was extreme particularly in the refinery in Cartagena. From one week before trade union organisers had been denied access to the workplace and during the strike there was a heavy riot police and army presence.

Three workers were injured as a result of attacks by the riot police and in another incident members of the Colombian armed forces were filmed manhandling striking workers. Meanwhile a video put online by Ecopetrol sought to blame the workers showing them shaking a fence – what the video failed to show was that on the other side of the fence their colleagues were being attacked by riot police.

According to the union it is clear that this militarised response to the strike is related to the recent arrival of the ex-General Sergio Mantilla as Ecopetrol’s security chief.

USO have called on the relevant state authorities to respond to the series of abuses and illegal actions carried out in response to the strike. And in defiance they have made clear that this is just the beginning of a series of strikes and protests the union will be organising.

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