Opinion Former Article

NASUWT: Killing repressions of Colombian trade unionists must end

The UK Government must put more pressure on Colombian authorities to stop the brutal killing and torture of trade unionists, the NASUWT, the largest teachers’ union, has urged.

Colombia remains one of the most dangerous countries in the world in which to be a trade unionist. Teacher trade union activists are particularly vulnerable. The NASUWT seconded a motion at the TUC Congress in Brighton, calling for greater action to stop the violence.

Chris Keates, General Secretary of the NASUWT, said:

“NASUWT officers have travelled to Colombia and have seen first hand the devastation being caused by the Colombia Government’s persecution of trade unionists.

“Thousands of workers have been killed, disappeared, imprisoned and tortured, simply for standing up for the rights of themselves and their colleagues to organise and campaign for better working conditions.

“The UK Government, working in hand with international partners, must act now to press the Colombia Government to end its war on trade unionists.”

John Rimmer, NASUWT Ex-President, who has recently visited Colombia to see first hand the attacks being perpetrated against trade unionists, and who addressed TUC Congress, said:

“We have colleagues such as Omar Alfonso Combita, a teacher trade unionist who is currently imprisoned in appalling conditions on trumped up charges of ‘rebellion’ simply for speaking out against government reforms to education.

“He is being denied access to medial treatment for Parkinson’s disease and has been held since October 2011 without trial.

“The only solution to the appalling situation in Colombia is for its government to agree to the cessation of violence and its commitment to enter into a peace process.”



Colombia is one of the NASUWT’s priority international countries. The NASUWT works with trade union colleagues in Colombia and with the Justice for Colombia pressure group in the UK to offer support and solidarity in the fight for democracy and social justice.

The full text of the motion is below.

Congress deplores the continued killing of Colombian trade unionists, with 29 killed in 2011 and 12 in the first six months of 2012. Our colleagues are also being imprisoned, threatened or forced into exile.

Congress congratulates the new movement, the Patriotic March, for their mobilisations in the face of smear tactics by the Colombian administration and a sharp rise in threats against those campaigning for peace.

Congress notes that despite a sophisticated PR campaign by the Colombian government, the situation on the ground remains severe and our own government remains too silent on the abuses.

Congress notes that despite conditions agreed for the various Free Trade Agreements with Colombia, impunity for trade union killings remains at over 95 per cent.

Congress recognises the successful work of Justice for Colombia (JfC) in exposing the reality of the situation, building the peace campaign and leading campaigns to secure the release of political prisoners such as Liliany Obando.

Congress applauds the work of affiliates in campaigning to secure the release of many other victims of repression, including jailed teacher Omar Alfonso Combita.

Congress notes that the armed conflict continues and agrees with Colombian trade unions that the abuses will only stop when there is peace with social justice.

Congress calls on the General Council to:
i support the JfC campaign for a peace process, and work to get the issue onto the international political agenda
ii continue to campaign in opposition to the EU Colombia Free Trade Agreement
iii press the UK government and main parties to be more vocal on the abuses and support civil society efforts for peace
iv support the work of JfC politically and financially.

Lena Davies
Journalist and acting press officer
0121 457 6250/ 07867 392 746


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