Between April and October 2022, 15 trade unionists in Colombia were victims of targeted assassinations: Wilmer Hernández, Aureliano Coral Guerrero, Misael Fernando Ávila Solarte, Mauricio Flory Balanta, Fernando Domicó, Edison Gómez Ortiz, Julio Cesar Ojeda Jara, Helberth Mosquera Hurtado, Wilfredo Parra Cardozo, Édgar Rodríguez Corredor, Sandra Patricia Montenegro, Sibares Lamprea Vargas, Álvaro Díaz Pineda, José Libardo Samboni Vargas and William Urueta.
Violent attacks on workers
In Colombia, Oliver Orobio Díaz, chair of the National Union of Branch Workers, Services of the Transport and Logistics Industry of Colombia (SNTT), Buenaventura branch, and employed at the Buenaventura Container Terminal (TCBUEN) has been victim of death threats since 2016.
On 18 April 2022, he was the victim of an attempted abduction. While he was driving through the Colinas de Comfamar neighbourhood, he was approached by two men on a motorcycle, who, without saying a word, tried to open the front door of his vehicle, telling him to head towards the interior of Barrio la Fortaleza. This forced him to speed up his vehicle, and he was able to escape. The next day, a threatening pamphlet appeared at the door of his residence. Due to these acts of violence, the union leader was forced to leave the country in exile.
Right to justice
In Colombia, the pervasive climate of repression, physical violence and intimidation against workers and trade unionists was compounded by the government’s failure to pursue the many historic cases of murders and other violent crimes. The labour justice system remained broken and only a handful of the hundreds of murder cases were resolved, usually many years later.
Right to collective bargaining
At the start of 2022, Banco Itaú had around 2,300 workers in Colombia, but it is estimated that by June, around 350 workers had been dismissed through so-called “mutual agreements”. Unions also believed another 300 workers would be dismissed by this method before September 2022. Banco Itaú also threatened workers with closure, while harassing those refusing to sign a resignation agreement in return for a severance payment.
The bank clearly tried to undermine the existing collective agreement, developed over decades of union struggle, to make its retail division more attractive to potential buyers. Under the law, in case of a sale, Itaú workers should be able to keep their jobs with a new owner, as well as the terms of their existing collective agreement with Banco Itaú.
Banco Itaú has also written to the Colombian Ministry of Labour requesting authorisation of the collective dismissal of workers under the pretext of needing to modernise and increase the productivity and quality of their service. Some 31 members of the National Union of Bank Employees (UNEB) and 72 members of the Colombian Association of Bank Employees (ACEB) were given notice by the bank that they would be included in these collective dismissals.