Wholesale Mass Layoffs of Workers in El Cerrejón

(Translated by Stacey Schlau, a CSN Volunteer Translator)

Source: SINALTRAINAL Junta Directiva Nacional
June 9, 2014

More than 800 workers have been laid off in the coaling complex of la Guajira in Colombia. The workers were subcontracted through Sepecol, a shell company of Carbones del Cerrejón Limited, property of multinational companies Billiton, Anglo American, and Xstrata-Glencore.

In order to justify the mass layoffs and destroying the Sintrasepecol union and prevent these 800 workers from affiliating with Sintracarbón, Carbones del Cerrejón Limited has decided not to extend the contract with Sepecol, and has announced the inclusion of the Vigilancia Vise y Vigilancia Guajira companies.

This retaliation—locking out the 800 workers—is supposedly punishment for the efforts of the workers to get the companies to pay them for Sundays and holidays, overtime for night work, legal subsidies for transportation, and for daily overtime work, which represent an average of 400,000 pesos monthly for each worker [~$213 USD].

Companies avoid renewing contracts as cover ups for subcontracting workers, in order to eliminate unions, avoid direct contracting, and as a means of not recognizing legal rights. They have left more than 800 families without work or means of daily sustenance, after having worked in the coaling complex for more than 20 years, for Carbones del Cerrejón Limited, property of the multinational companies Billiton, Anglo American y Xstrata-Glencore.

There is no limit to their immorality. At a meeting that took place on June 3, 2014 among representatives of Sintracarbon and Sintrasepecol, Álvaro López, a representative of Carbones del Cerrejón Limited, said that the security companies VISE and Vigilancia Guajira, which have been awarded contracts to provide security, are autonomous and not obligated to hire laid-off workers.

These layoffs worsen the situation of poverty, hunger, and unemployment in the la Guajira región, on top of other layoffs announced by companies such as Aramark in La Valin in Puerto Bolívar. The warning from incoming companies VISE and Vigilancia Guajira that they will change work shifts, and lay off 140 workers, may affect workers in other companies that form part of the conglomerate of Carbones del Cerrejón Limited, which is directly responsible for these layoffs and the refusal to pay extra for Sundays and holidays, night shifts, legal subsidies of transportation, or daily extra hours worked by workers subcontracted by SEPECOL.

We demand that the authorities stop the abuses of Carbones del Cerrejón Limited, property of the multinational companies Billiton, Anglo American y Xstrata-Glencore. We ask that the 800 workers subcontracted by the shell company Sepecol be rehired and that subcontracting be prohibited, since it is a way of simulating a direct labor contract and a legal means of avoiding applying workers’ rights guaranteed in the Collective Convention of Work.

We call on governments and union organizations, defenders of human rights, and all sectors with a social consciousness in countries in which coal mined in Colombia by Carbones del Cerrejón Limited, shell company of the multinationals Billiton, Anglo American and Xstrata-Glencore, is traded, to demand that these multinational companies operate in a manner that respects workers’ rights, the environment, and community rights.

Send letters of protest to: Roberto Junguito Pombo, President, Carbones de la Cerrejón Limited, Oficina Bogotá D.C.,Calle 100 No. 19-54, Bogotá (57) (1) 595.55.55 La Guajira (57) (5) 350.55.55, with a copy to javier@sinaltrainal.org.
SINALTRAINAL, National Council of Directors

(This translation may be reprinted as long as its content remains unaltered and the source, author and translator are cited.)

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