National Union of Public and General Employees | 26 February 2009
Canada-Colombia free trade agreement condemned
National labour federations and major unions say deal will be ’catastropic for a country like Colombia.’
Bogota (26 Feb. 2009) — Colombia’s national labour federations and major unions have condemned the free trade agreement (FTA) signed by the governments of Canada and Colombia last year.
A declaration by the General Labor Confederation (CGT), the Confederation of Colombian Workers (CTC) and the Unified Central of Labor Unions (CUT) says the only benefits from the agreement will flow to "big monopolies such as Colombia Goldfields Ltd., B2Gold, Coldcorp Mining Inc. and the Frontier Pacific Mining Corporation, instead of the majority of people from our country and from Canada."
The agreement was discussed by the unions last month at meetings in Colombia with representatives of the Canadian Labour Congres (CLC).
"The political, economic, social, cultural, ethical and environmental impacts will be catastrophic for a country like Colombia," the Colombian groups say.
Lagging technology, low rates of consumerism and weak agriculture, combined with tremendous overall "asymmetries" between the two national economies, are cited as the key reasons the deal will be bad for Colombia.
"From our perspective, fair trade should be defined as the development and progress of the socio-economic, cultural and environmental rights of the Colombian society," the declaration says.
"As for labour rights and the freedom of association, the FTA is changing into a shameful reward for government and managers when it comes to violating these rights, forgetting more than 2,700 murdered unionists and letting their killers go unpunished.
"This only serves to perpetuate the neglect of the Colombian government in fulfilling the signed agreements concerning direct requests and recommendations made by monitoring bodies of the International Labour Organization (ILO)."
The groups also say that Canada’s action in signing the agreement will lead to greater pressure for the U.S. to sign its own agreement with Colombia, and make problems even worse.
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) has been one of the most outspoken critics of the Canada-Colombia free trade deal. The union was part of a delegation, representing Canada’s top public sector unions, that visited Colombia last summer and met with key labour groups, including CUT.
The delegation warned after the discussions that the agreement would lead to worsening human and labour rights abuses and further devastation of Colombian communities.
“Our overwhelming conclusion is that a free trade agreement will not help the Colombian people," the group said in a joint statement at the time. "It will only exacerbate an already horrifying list of human and labour rights abuses that are shocking the world." NUPGE