Colombia’s government has reached an agreement with child care workers who have been on strike for 11 days, allowing the women to return to work in child care centers on Monday.

The Colombian Institute of Family Welfare (ICBF) and the Ministry of Labor, with the support of the Attorney General’s Office and the Ombudsman, signed a deal that will guarantee the labor rights of more than 58,000 community mothers.

“This is good news for the country because during these 10 days, 16,000 children were not served. We have guaranteed from the beginning of this government formalization of community mothers, thanks to President Santos, they have an employment contract where they recognize all their social benefits,“said Cristina Plazas, General Director of ICBF.

The women had been lobbying for a formalization of their working rights, particularly in relation to their contracts as well as improvements in the provision of food for vulnerable children in Colombia.

As a result of the deal the institute “will guarantee in the contributions contracts with the Companies Administration of Services (EAS) the obligation to hire the community mothers at present linked, until October 31, 2016. Likewise contribution contracts will be held with the EAS with duration term between November 1, 2016 and July, 2018,” added Michelsen.

Also, a table will be installed to monitor these cases, composed of the Attorney General, Ombudsman’s Office, the Ministry of Labour, ICBF and the union of community mothers.

Also it was ensured that food suppliers meet the required standards which was a crucial part of the dispute with cutbacks leaving thousands of Colombia’s children starving.

The agreement was described as “a stage of labor formalization”  by the Deputy Minister of Labor Relations, Enrique Villegas.

“This negotiation is a stage of labor formalization and better labor relations, which will allow us to build a better ICBF for the benefit of children” he said.


Colombia’s child welfare workers strike over starving children


The women began the work stoppage amid concerns over the deteriorating humanitarian situation of the poorest of Colombia’s children.

They wanted wide-ranging reforms in working conditions and an increase in resources for the provision of child welfare in Colombia from the ICBF, whom unions described as being under a “makeshift administration.”

While contracts and working conditions made up a large part of the negotiations, the community workers were desperately seeking a dramatic improvement in the provision of food and healthcare to Colombia’s children.

In nutritional matters the agreements include the establishment of workshops by zonal center, composed of community mothers and nutritionists ICBF teams, to arrange the derivation of menus.

These tables also review procedures for the delivery of food by the management companies Services (EAS) to the Service Units, seeking to ensure appropriate quantity and quality.

In this sense, the ICBF advance actions to improve the quality of food provided through mechanisms such as registration verification of food suppliers and compliance with the conditions of quality, health and in the amounts established in the minutes.

The ICBF ensure that the caloric intake that is delivered to children is really the equivalent of 70% of the requirements by age group, implementing strategies supervision and monitoring.

In cases where alerts of malnutrition are identified, the ICBF activate routes care and ensure the implementation of the intervention plan.


450 Colombian children die annually from malnutrition: ICBF


The battle between the community mothers and the ICBF has been ongoing for more than a decade as they the workers have taken to the streets several times to demand better working conditions and better service provison for children.

This weeks deal sees the employment relationship of the community mothers handed over from the ICBF to the EAS and a dramatic improvement in labor conditions.

It also makes more suitable provision for the poorest children in Colombia that are suffering from malnutrition in the country’s most vulnerable areas.

Article first appeared at Colombia Reports. Click here to go there!