Colombian workers take drastic steps to protest mistreatment by General Motors
1 August 2012
BOGOTA, Colombia - Members of ASOTRECOL, an association of workers and ex-workers injured at the General Motors assembly plant in Bogota, Colombia, launched a hunger strike Wednesday. For the last year, GM has ignored the group’s peaceful protests and occupation of the sidewalk in front of the U.S. embassy.
Four workers are engaged in the hunger strike. “To symbolize their commitment to this hunger strike and to the justice that they are seeking, they will be sewing their mouths closed and plan to carry out the hunger strike to the death,” ASOTRECOL announced in a statement to the media.
Suffering from occupational injuries that come from repetitive movements, lifting excessive weights, harmful body postures and the accelerated work pace of the assembly line, the workers were dismissed from the company shortly after their injuries were detected in the company's medical facilities.
Their health destroyed, the workers have been left without anything. They are unable to find work because of their debilitating injuries and the economic hardship has meant that many of the families have lost their houses, have had services such as water, electricity and gas cut off, and do not have enough to eat.
Manuel Ospina Contreras
Pedro Pablo Rincon Rosero
Jorge Alberto Andrade Parra
Carlos Ernesto Trujillo Rojas
Photos of hunger strikers by Austin Robles
The hunger strike is a final attempt to get General Motors to respond to their requests for compensation, medical care and reintegration into the company or re-training for other jobs, the group said.
The actions of the ASOTRECOL workers are particularly courageous given the fact that Colombia is the most dangerous place in the world to be a union member.
In June, the International Trade Union Confederation reported that 29 of the 76 trade unionists murdered worldwide in 2011 were in Colombia. And that’s just the reported number—the actual number may be even higher. In addition to the 29 murders, reported intimidation of unionists in Colombia last year included three forced disappearances, 10 attempted murders, two cases of torture, a kidnapping, 16 arbitrary detentions and 342 reported instances of workers being threatened for their association with a union.
For more information The following videos provide background on the ASOTRECOL struggle, including interviews with workers: