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Port Workers Union in Urabá denounce intimidation of unionists & other Labor Action Plan violations

By the Port Workers Union of Colombia

Apartadó, Colombia

December 29, 2014

Cargoban workers demand labor justice

The actions that Cargoban S.A. took against its workers between November 25-December 20, 2014 is an example of the worst of anti-union tactics, which, as usual, hide systematic violations of the most basic labor rights.

Cargoban S.A. is the major logistical port operator in the Urabá region, employing approximately 500 workers. It is owned by Marino Rendón Prado and Miriam Hernandez Osorio and contracts its services to international banana companies: Banacol, Uniban, Conservas del Monte, Banafrut, Corrugados del Darien, Olinsa, Aduanimex and Sara Palma.

On November 25 a group of workers employed by Cargoban S.A. that are also members of the Port Workers Union presented a list of grievances. Highlights include:

1. Shifts of up to 96 consecutive hours with no breaks, no rest and no opportunity to return to their homes, for the workers that labor loading and unloading ships anchored in the Gulf of Urabá.

2. A refusal to pay overtime, nights, holiday and Sunday pay and the negation of mandatory compensated rest and vacations.

3. Temporary contracts for a period of 13 weeks continually renewed for 15 years or more, in violation of laws that mandate after the third renewal such contracts cannot be given for a period of less than one year.

4. Retaining the copy of the work contracts that should be shared with the workers.

5. Hiding internal workplace regulations and excluding workers from knowing their rights, in violation of Constitutional Court Sentence No. C-934-04. The law considers that relevant workplace regulations and policies must be distributed via pamphlets that allow them to be read in full, as many companies do, and not posted in minuscule print on a single poster.

6. Low to absurdly low salaries.

7. The second application of a collective pact made in violation of legal requirements and carried out with an absence of formal reporting, no workers assembly, no election of negotiators, no approval of the conditions set forth in the pact and no formal documentation initiating and finalizing the negotiation. The company simply demanded workers sign the agreement without even having read it.

It is easy to imagine the vulnerability of workers that never received a copy of their work contracts, have never read the workplace regulations and who have temporary contracts of 13 weeks.

Cargoban S.A. responded to the modest list of grievances filed by workers on November 25 by firing union members Harold Peña, Ariel Ballesteros, Euclides Moreno, José Núñez, Jesús Córdoba and Hermes Cuadrado, ignoring the relevant forums for negotiation, union leadership and the Claims Commission of which they are a part.

Workplace and anti-union pressure continues, but workers are determined to resist these attacks. The illegality of Cargoban S.A.’s decisions could be subject to serious sanctions and damage the companies to whom Cargoban S.A. contracts its services. Workers directly employed by Uniban and Banacol urge Cargoban workers to keep their morale high.

The Port Workers Union requests accompaniment and solidarity from regional, national and international organizations to urge Cargoban S.A. to cease their attacks on union rights and to respect basic labor rights. Urabá needs employers that respect human dignity and dignified work.

Direct negotiations around the list of grievances will begin on January 14 and conclude on February 2. We hope to arrive at a civil agreement that dignifies working conditions in the ports.


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