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        ==========COLOMBIAN  LABOR  MONITOR=============
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The Colombian government has moved to declare illegal the 10-day-old
strike by the Telecom workers' three unions (ATT, ASITEL and SITELECOM).

According to the Minister of Communications, Jose Fernando Bautista, the
government is making every effort to avoid "paralysis" in the country's
communications system.  The minister also asserted that  the Colombian
government cannot accept any compromise  that would "place the Telecom
in financial problems."

Workers have been protesting plans to privatize Telecom as well as the
lack of implementation of the pensions regime that was established the
State Council.

Unionists are bracing for a crack-down in keeping with the pattern that
has developed in Colombia's neo-liberal war on labor.  An earlier example
of this pattern was demonstrated in 1992, when the government declared a
Telecom workers' strike illegal and deemed it an act of "terrorism".
Thirteen union leaders were arrested and tried.  They were arbitrarily
held for one year before the trumped-up charges were dropped.

The "terrorism" charge is of serious concern since it is provided for in
Decree No. 180 (1988) which reads, in part:

        "Whoever provokes or maintains the population or a sector
        of the same in a state of unrest or terror, by means of
        acts that place at risk the life, the physical integrity
        or the liberty of persons or the edifices of the
        communications media, transport, processing or
        transportation of fluids and fuel plants, using means
        capable of creating hardship will face up to 20 years in

This decree, in effect, criminalizes social protest and strikes in
sectors such as telecommunications!

The "outlawing" of union activity under such circumstances makes the
unions especially vulnerable to death-squad attacks.  Thousands of union
leaders and activists have been assassinated in Colombia over the past
ten years or so.

Messages of support to the Colombian brothers and sisters can be sent
through the Colombian Labor Monitor.

Colombian Labor Monitor

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