Colombian Workers, Allies Wage 3rd Protest for Justice

Colombian Workers, Allies Wage 3rd Protest for Justice

Colombian workers, their unions along with students, indigenous and Afro-Colombian and environmental groups took to the streets today in the third nationwide march to protest government moves that would reduce worker-rights protections, pensions and funding for education and increase electricity costs. The protests also demand full implementation of the 2016 peace accords.

Colombia, protests, unions, Solidarity CenterThe protests started on November 21, when an estimated 250,000 Colombians marched in cities across the country, driven by a coalition of unions—the Central Workers’ Union (CUT), Confederation of Colombian Workers (CTC), General Labor Confederation (CGT) and the Confederation of Pensioners of Colombia (CPC)—and now have been joined by a wide array of civil society organizations that formed the coalition of protesters, the “Mesa del Paro.”

The coalition presented the government with 13 requests, including repeal of new laws that make it easier to eliminate many labor rights protections and give a massive tax break for big corporations while cutting back on basic services for working people.

Colombians also are protesting the government’s moves to privatize the pension system,  base pension payments below the minimum wage and increase the cost of electricity by 35 percent, according the Colombian union federation CUT, a longstanding Solidarity Center partner, which represents 500,000 members. In addition, they are decrying the government’s inaction on the murders of community leaders and activists, as well as corruption draining the public coffers.

Following the November 21 protests, the government initially agreed with requests by the Mesa de Paro to hold a dialogue, but the government called for members of the military, police and corporate representatives to join in the discussions. The government ultimately accepted a direct and exclusive dialogue with the Mesa de Paro on December 2. The December 4 protests are part of ongoing actions to ensure the government pursues an agreement.

Five people were killed in the protests that began on November 21, and hundreds injured.

Africa Unions Address Gender-Based Violence at Work

Africa Unions Address Gender-Based Violence at Work

Delegates to the International Trade Union Confederation–Africa (ITUC-Africa) last week passed a resolution drafted by women union leaders that will help the organization’s 101 affiliates address gender-based violence and harassment in the world of work, including pressing African governments to ratify International Labor Organization (ILOConvention 190.

Passed in June, Convention 190 is a new global treaty to prevent and address violence and harassment in the world of work that includes gender-based violence and harassment.

Delegates from more than 47 African countries gathered in the Nigerian capital of Abuja for the 4th Ordinary Congress of the ITUC-Africa’s Regional Organization November 21 and 22. Held every four years, the Congress sets labor’s priorities and direction on behalf of Africa’s working people, both internally and in its dealings with governments and employers.

“The trade union movement in Africa has tremendous power to influence the future not only of the continent but the world,” said AFL-CIO Vice President Tefere Gebre, speaking to delegates.

Some 45 women leaders of unions from across the continent—many of whom have long been engaged in a global campaign to end gender-based violence and harassment at work—presented their recommendations to the full Congress, which the ITUC-Africa leadership formally adopted.

The resolution includes the following recommendations for African unions and ITUC-Africa:

  • Women trade union leaders participate in worker negotiations with employers, so gender-based violence and harassment at work is prioritized
  • Going forward, negotiated agreements with employers include language that explicitly addresses gender-based violence and harassment at work
  • ITUC-Africa provide support for union affiliates that are lobbying their governments to adopt Convention 190.
Africa Unions Address Gender-Based Violence at Work

Africa Unions Address Gender-Based Violence at Work

Delegates to the International Trade Union Confederation–Africa (ITUC-Africa) last week passed a resolution drafted by women union leaders that will help the organization’s 101 affiliates address gender-based violence and harassment in the world of work, including pressing African governments to ratify International Labor Organization (ILOConvention 190.

Passed in June, Convention 190 is a new global treaty to prevent and address violence and harassment in the world of work that includes gender-based violence and harassment.

Delegates from more than 47 African countries gathered in the Nigerian capital of Abuja for the 4th Ordinary Congress of the ITUC-Africa’s Regional Organization November 21 and 22. Held every four years, the Congress sets labor’s priorities and direction on behalf of Africa’s working people, both internally and in its dealings with governments and employers.

“The trade union movement in Africa has tremendous power to influence the future not only of the continent but the world,” said AFL-CIO Vice President Tefere Gebre, speaking to delegates.

Some 45 women leaders of unions from across the continent—many of whom have long been engaged in a global campaign to end gender-based violence and harassment at work—presented their recommendations to the full Congress, which the ITUC-Africa leadership formally adopted.

The resolution includes the following recommendations for African unions and ITUC-Africa:

  • Women trade union leaders participate in worker negotiations with employers, so gender-based violence and harassment at work is prioritized
  • Going forward, negotiated agreements with employers include language that explicitly addresses gender-based violence and harassment at work
  • ITUC-Africa provide support for union affiliates that are lobbying their governments to adopt Convention 190.
16 Days of Activism Starts TODAY!

16 Days of Activism Starts TODAY!

Starting today, International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, activists from unions, women’s groups and their allies around the world will take part in 16 days of action with a special mission: They will mobilize their members and coalition partners to encourage—and demand—their governments ratify Convention 190 and update or pass national laws ensuring workplaces are free of gender-based violence.

Passed in June by the International Labor Organization (ILO), Convention 190 is a new global treaty to prevent and address violence and harassment in the world of work that includes gender-based violence and harassment. It addresses the varied forms of work today and includes all workers, such as formal and informal workers, those under any contractual status, job seekers and trainees, and specifically recognizes women workers. It also defines the world of work: that is, where and how work and work-related activities are performed, including, where workers take a rest break or meal, washing or changing facilities, work-related trips, travel, training, work-related communications, employer-provided accommodations and commuting to and from the job.

Union women leaders and their allies fought to make Convention 190 a reality, recognizing that it offers the best opportunity for changing structural systems that feed sexual harassment and other forms of gender-based violence in the world of work.

The annual 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence is an international campaign coordinated by the Center for Women’s Global Leadership and used by activists around the world as an organizing strategy to call for the elimination of all forms of gender-based violence. (Follow the 16 Days campaign on Twitter at #16DaysCampaign).

This year’s focus on ending GBVH at the workplace builds on 10 years of action by workers and their allies pushing for an international treaty to address gender-based violence and harassment at work. Along the way, workers and their unions built broad coalitions, educated union members and boosted and expanded the collective strength that ensures their voices are heard.

“Convention 190 might sound like a lofty piece of legislation far removed from the struggles of women and vulnerable workers, but in reality it was drafted and fought for by grassroots organizations, unions and coalitions of mobilized workers from many countries. It reflects their lived experiences,” says Robin Runge, Solidarity Center senior gender specialist.

Laying the Groundwork for 16 Days of Activism

Gender, Sri Lanka, 16 Days of Activism to End Violence Against Women, Solidarity CenterWorkers already are deep into the movement for ratification of ILO 190, many starting immediately after the ILO passed Convention 190.

In Indonesia, women union leaders laid the groundwork for their campaign last year by assessing the extent of GBVH at several factories. In late 2018, they interviewed their co-workers at garment and footwear factories and engaged them in informal focus groups. These unique worker-to-worker discussions found high-levels of gender-based violence on the job.

Among 105 Indonesian garment workers who took part in interviews and focus groups, women reported managers and other leaders hit them, pulled their hair, groped, touched and kissed them at work, and asked for sex. One was even threatened with death.

Now, an alliance of Indonesian union and nongovernmental organizations are building on the work of the garment union leaders to create material to lobby the government and parliament to ratify Convention 190. Women activists also are educating union members who are helping institute practices to ensure targets of sexual harassment and other forms of gender-based violence at work are able to report their experiences without retaliation.

In garment factories, for instance, workers form “safe circles” that includes worker representatives and a supervisor to jointly monitor commitments by the union and management to end GBVH.

“The safe circle can be considered as end goal of this approach: creating a safe condition for all workers in the production line,” says Sumiyati, chairperson for Women and Children’s Affairs at the National Industrial Workers Union Federation (SPN–NIWUF), a Solidarity Center partner.

 Mobilize from the Ground Up

Led by the Confederation of Free Trade Unions of Ukraine committee on gender issues and women’s rights, union activists in Ukraine took part in a two-day workshop on violence and harassment in the world of work in October and participants built on their discussions to devise an action plan for educating union members and ensuring Ukraine becomes one of the first countries to ratify Convention 190.

“Ratifying ILO Convention 190 by Ukraine would untie the hands of lawyers,” says Inna Kudinska, a lawyer affiliated with the worker legal center, Labor Initiatives, and Solidarity Center in Ukraine. “Thus far, we rely on claiming common labor law violations in cases of violence, harassment or mobbing, but we cannot adequately protect workers without relevant legislation.”

he Committee of KVPU (the Confederation of Free Trade Unions of Ukraine) on gender issues and women’s rights held a

In Morocco, where ratification of Convention 190 is a key element in annual plan of the women’s committee of the Democratic Labor Confederation (CDT), the CDT is educating members about its importance and is set to launch a national campaign for its ratification.

Touriya Lahrech, a union leader of the Democratic Labor Confederation (CDT) in Morocco and delegate to the final negotiations of Convention 190 in June, is worked with representatives in parliament, where she is an elected representative, to organize informal meetings with the ministry of employment and vocational training before raising the issue in the full House of Representatives.

The 16 Days of Activism campaign is a tool in workers’ long struggle to achieve workplaces free of gender-based violence, where all workers are treated with dignity.

“To write a new script for workers, we need to mobilize from the ground up—grassroots worker movements, human rights and women’s rights NGOs, industry voices and corporate foundations,” says Runge. “When we all call on governments and businesses to change, our collective voice becomes impossible to ignore.”

Colombia Marches Against Measures that Hurt Workers, Youth and Pensioners

Colombia Marches Against Measures that Hurt Workers, Youth and Pensioners

Tens of thousands of Colombians have taken to the streets across the country today, simmering with anger over the government’s moves to cut wages and pensions, restrict the right to protest, hike energy prices and reward corporations with tax cuts, among other proposed measures. The president responded by closing the borders, raiding the homes of activists and mobilizing riot police.

The nationwide strike, organized and led by unions, students, Afro-Colombians and indigenous Colombians, has tapped into deep discontent with the government of Ivan Duque. “Even the middle class is fed up with domination by the superwealthy and political class,” reported Courthouse News Service. “Colombian human rights defenders, artists, LGBT groups, teachers, health workers, air traffic controllers and others joined the call for a national day of peaceful protest.”

Income inequality in Colombia is high, in both regional and global terms, as are both unemployment and the poverty rate.

Among protester grievances are proposals that would: reduce salaries for young people to 75 percent of the minimum wage; privatize the pension system and base pension payments below the minimum wage; cut taxes for large companies while raising them for the middle class; and increase the cost of electricity by 35 percent, according the Colombian union federation CUT, a longstanding Solidarity Center partner. In addition, they are decrying the government’s inaction on the murders of community leaders and activists and corruption draining the public coffers.

In today’s strike, Colombia joins a host of countries—from Lebanon to Haiti—that have seen mass protests over bread-and-butter issues like wages, jobs and corruption.

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