Multinationals would rather pay the ridiculous fines of the Ministry for Social Protection than respect the rights of their workers

Letter from Senator Jorge Enrique Robledo to Mauricio Santa
María, Minister of Social Protection, Bogotá, March 31, 2011

(Translated by Diana Méndez, CSN Volunteer Translator. Edited by Teresa Welsh, a
CSN Volunteer Editor.4)


In keeping with Colombian law, when it is shown that a company has
violated the rights of its workers, the Ministry of Social Protection
must imposes fines of up to one hundred times the minimum wage.
Regardless, in Colombia, multinationals prefer to violate labor laws
because it is cheaper to pay the Ministry’s ridiculous fines rather than
to obey labor legislation.

In the last two years, the Ministry has fined Goodyear ten times for
violating the agreement signed with Sintraincapla, the workers’

union. The fines add up to about 33 million pesos, close to
$17,000, with an average of 3.3 million pesos per fine, which is
to say, $1,700, a laughable sum on a world scale.

Icollantas-Michelin has been fined five times for violating labor laws
and the collective agreement with Sintraicollantas. But the sum

of the fines is only 9 million pesos, which means that for five
violations on the part of a multinational, the Ministry’s fines are
less than $5,000, a truly ridiculous sum on a world scale.

Likewise, the Ministry proved that Telmex had violated workers’ rights
to unionize when they fired several unionized workers and union
founders. The fine imposed on Carlos Slim, one of the richest tycoons
in the world, was 40 million pesos, a bit more than $21,000 dollars,

another laughable sum on a world scale.

And this situation repeats itself in mining multinationals, whose
workers suffer grave health problems due to the terrible conditions
under which they have to work. For example, Drummond was found
responsible for the death of a worker who suffered a workplace
accident and was fined only 30 million pesos ($16,000), once again,
another laughable sum on a world scale.

It is unacceptable that the Social Protection Ministry be so lax with
multinationals that violate labor laws. It is not possible to affirm that
Colombia is a democracy when these types of things occur. For this
reason, I ask that you take necessary measures to prevent workers’
rights being violated.


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