El Cerrejon Should Respect the Rights of its Workers

Declaration by Senator Jorge Enrique Robledo
(Translated by Emily Hansen, CSN’s Program Assistant)
January 14, 2010
            In a letter addressed to Jairo Quiroz, President of Sintracarbon, the directors of El Cerrejon attack the union for articles published in the newspaper The Miner, in which the workers denounce the violations of the company.  The transnational carbon company, owned by AngloAmerican, BHP Billiton and Xstrata – subsidiary of the Swiss Glencore – has contracted more than 5,000 workers through 300 contracting companies and has prevented all of them from forming unions, with the sole purpose of decreasing their salaries and increasing the company’s exorbitant gains.
            Sintracarbon has attracted attention for its persistent and praiseworthy defense of the human rights of the direct and indirect employees of El Cerrejon, and the communities affected by the mineral exploitation.  The union has carried out activities within its constitutional and legal rights, and its civil and patriotic vocation is recognized nationally and internationally.
            I give the workers of the transnational company my full support in standing against the accusations made by the company against the union and its President.  I plead for the workers to be successful in harmonizing labor relations through dialogue and mutual respect.
            The threats made against Yoe Arregoces, representative of the Roche Community, for his role in the negotiations with El Cerrejon regarding the process of involuntary reassignment caused by the expansion of the mine, are deplorable. I ask the negotiators of the national government and the regional authorities to provide democratic guarantees and respect the economic rights, traditional cultures and chosen forms of organization of its workers.
            The exploitation of carbon should not occur solely to satisfy the interests of the multinational companies, much less if it brings with it violent practices and authoritarian manifestations. The natural resources of Colombia should serve principally for the development of the nation and for the betterment of the quality of life for the residents of La Guajira.

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