Colombia’s Growing Labour Struggle

Posted on Aug 19 2013 - 2:48am by Rico

Three Colombia’s most powerful unions will take action on Monday and Tuesday, August 19 and 20, as the spreading anger against the Colombian government reaches a new stage.

Striking truck drivers in Colombia blockading a highway

Striking truck drivers in Colombia blockading a highway

Unions for coffee growers, truck drivers and miners are planning to participate in walkouts, protests and other actions that are set to begin on August 19, with other important organizations and forces from Colombian society also participating in this display of discontent across Colombia.

There is widespread bitterness with the Colombian government as a product of the deteriorating economic situation, the poor state of the country’s health care system, and the government’s push for free trade deals, such as the one recently negotiated with South Korea. This anger, combined with an uprising for autonomy in Catatumbo, along the country’s eastern border with Venezuela, has united different fragmented struggles into an organized resistance against President Juan Manuel Santos, who is in the last year of his first term.

All of this is occurring against the backdrop of an ongoing peace negotiations with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as the FARC. With the Colombian government losing public support, Santos will have a hard time laying the groundwork for his re-election in the coming year.

Strikes and struggles that began with Colombian miners (both large-scale and small-scale), truck drivers (the Truckers Association of Colombia, known by its acronym ACC) and coffee growers (FEDECAFE) have spread to other sectors of the Colombian agricultural industry (rice growers, dairy workers and bakery workers, to name a few), the health care industry and teachers. The Colombian student movement, led by the Broad National Council of Students, or MANE, is pledging to support the mobilization.

As happened during the coffee growers and truck drivers’ strikes earlier this year, when many roads were blockaded by workers and farmers, the agricultural unions are pledging to take to the roads as well. Plus, truck drivers are promising to protest on major routes. This means transportation will be at a standstill in many sections of the country, and important agro-industrial centers will be cut off from shipping goods and making profits–hopefully putting more pressure on the government to engage in talks with leaders of the national strike call.