Thursday, October 25, 2012


Lima, casual street portraits, 2011 (Petrus)

Beginning of the month of October  trade union leaders of Europe, Colombia and Peru reaffirmed their opposition to the draft EU-Colombia-Peru Free Trade Agreement (FTA) in meetings with key Members of the European Parliament and officials of the European Commission.

“The international trade union movement is united in this call for a vote against the FTA. To do otherwise would disregard the appalling human rights record in Colombia and continued labour violations in Peru and would damage the EU’s reputation as a leading force in the promotion of human rights and basic freedoms”, states a joint letter sent to MEPs ahead of the EP’s decision on the FTA.
The EP is set to vote on the ratification of the FTA before Christmas.”

Loma, casual street portraits, 2011 (Petrus)

Dear Members of the European Parliament,

In the forthcoming weeks, you will have the opportunity to vote on the EU Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Colombia and Peru. We, the workers and trade unions of the European Union and Latin America, reiterate our opposition to this FTA.

Furthermore, we call on the members of the EP’s international trade committee to ensure that the EP’s strong  demand for a binding action plan on human rights, labour law and environmental protection is respected, as agreed in June 2012.  To date, neither the EU nor the governments of Colombia and Peru have put forward a plan, let alone one that satisfies
the benchmarks clearly established in the resolution.

Lima, casual street portraits 2011 (Petrus)

The violation of fundamental rights remains a fact of life for many Colombian workers.  The adoption of the US-Colombia Labour Action Plan, linked to the US-Colombia FTA, required some important legal and administrative changes, but unfortunately did not require proof of
progress  in practice  before the  implementation of the agreement. Thus,  the reality on the ground for Colombian workers remains  wholly  unacceptable. Union leaders  and activists continue to be assassinated, threatened, and intimidated, and perpetrators  continue to  enjoy almost complete impunity despite the widespread and intense international attention. Labour
laws continue to be violated. Many workers throughout the economy still find themselves working under sham employment relationships, from cooperatives to newly-created schemes, despite changes in legislation and a promise to make this a priority area for labour inspection. Similarly, workers find themselves labouring under employer imposed pacts meant to weaken
or eliminate the union. As a result, workers face a major obstacle to the exercise of freedom of association.

Lima, casual street portraits 2011 (Petrus)

This, together with the continued violence, has led to a continued decline in
unionization in Colombia. 

We note too that trade unionists in Peru also face hurdles in law and in practice to the free exercise of their rights.  Anti-union dismissals, the disregard for collective agreements and bargaining rights, and union busting in the private sector continued to be common practices. Workers in agribusiness, who are most frequently subcontracted and temporary workers, are among the worst treated.

This reality shows the importance of legally binding commitments to improve labour and human rights. However, these are absent from the FTA and its Sustainable Development Chapter, which is not subject to a meaningful dispute settlement procedure, as provided for
the commercial provisions of the FTA.

The international trade union movement is united in this call for a vote against the FTA. To do otherwise would disregard the appalling human rights record in Colombia and continued labour violations in Peru  and would damage the EU’s reputation as a leading force in the promotion of human rights and basic freedoms.

Yours sincerely,

Bernadette Segol, General Secretary ETUC
Sharan Burrow, General Secretary ITUC
Victor Baez Mosquera, Secretario General CSA/TUCA
Meter Waldorff, General Secretary of Public Services Internacional and
                            Chair of the Council of Global Unions

Source: ETUC (

Friday, October 19, 2012


During my holidays in Cuba (2008) I stayed a few days in Vinales. We decided to try to visit the community of Los Acuaticos. One of the basic rules of this religious community is not to involve in any state institution. Because of repression by the state in 1943 gthey fled into the Sierra del Infierno not far from Vinales. The community is very small. We found a guide who wanted us to bring to one of these families. We were very surprised to learn to know a young Colombian couple hihg up in the mountains staying with a poor farmer's family. They explained that they had come from Bogota because the mother of the women once had nice holidays in the same area. I must say that it became inmediately to my mind that they have something to do with FARC or some other Colombian revolutionary group like for example ELN, but of course I did not mention this. In stead I asked them if it was permitted to take a photograph.

Do the state of Colombia and the FARC really want peace? For the State of Colombia that depends above all from the army that is winning the war against the FARC and at the same time is gaining a lot. I believe that the Colombian army is the best-trained and best-armed army of Latin America. Thanks to the USA. They always have supported the Colombian army with know how, special training and weapons especially when the FARC developed into a narco-terrorist brigade.

A few years ago the Venezuelan president Chavez tried to use the FARC for its own political purpose: to show his anti-americanism and solidarity with a leftist struggle, to become a peacemaker and to put Colombia under attack. The USA inmediately expanded their military bases in Colombia. After having sought advice from his generals, president Chavez had to back down. The Colombian army is too strong for the Venezuelan army.

Has the Colombian Government control over their military? I do not know, but you can say that the Americans have. If they want peace in Colombia they will force the Colombian military to follow that path. We can expect from US president Obama that he wants peace. If presidential candidate Romney also wants peace in Colombia is more difficult to say. Maybe he prefers to go on with the war, with the advantage that the Colombian army remains alert and the Venezuelan president Chavez can be kept in check.

Does the FARC want peace? It is generally assumed that they want so because they have become military weak and lost a lot of their leaders. However, there is still plenty of jungle in Colombia to continue guerrilla warfare. Indeed, it will be difficult for FARC to get new weapons but even with fewer weapons you can continue to control the peasants, the coca production and the marketing of coca and at the same time make life difficult for the Colombian army. But the FARC is internationally more isolated than ever. Its closest friend Cuba is now too poor to do anything of importance. On the contrary Cuba needs Venezuelan oil to survive so it is not in favour of political and/or military adventures.

Maybe the goal of these peace negotiations for FARC is to break through their international isolation? What we have seen so far from the FARC is a lot of show. Suddenly the FARC is talking about social justice for peasants while for years they forced peasants to produce drugs, forced their sons to enter in the FARC and massacred villagers who did not wish to cooperate with them.  According to the FARC peace will come when the Colombian government will distribute land to the peasants. As if that will be a solution to rural poverty. How do these poor farmers get the necessary agricultural knowledge, good seeds, financial credits, agricultural techniques, fertilizers and other necessary products, transport and marketing of their crops, etc.? Such projects require decades and FARC knows. Why else they themselves did never start such reforms in their controlled areas? But with the peace negotiations, they get the chance polishing their image of drugs gang into revolutionaries with a noble causes like social justice for poor farmers. 

Friday, October 12, 2012


The WOW World Congress was held in Vancouver, Canada from 11 to 14 September.

Since the fall of the wall in Berlin that came together with the failure of communism, capitalism reigns worldwide. US President Reagan (1981 – 1989) and British Prime Minister Thatcher (1979 – 1990) supported  the development by a policy of liberalization of labor and capital. The new capitalistic game resulted in more shareholder value and less workers value. Since those days it was all talking about ‘shareholder value’ which meant that shareholders should get as much as possible money out of their investments in companies even at the expense of the workers in those companies.

Roel Rotshuizen (left) was releceted as President of WOW. Maria Eminenti (right) representing the Asian Brotherhood of Workers ABCW, presides one of the sessions of the Congress.

Globalisation pushed workers even further to the edge. Capital moved to all corners of the world looking for more money value. Companies moved to low wage countries. Workers had to accept lower wages or else would loose their jobs.

Koffi Chrysanthe Zounnadjala, President of the Fédération Panafricaine des Employés FPE, speaks to the Congress. He was reelected as vice-president for Africa. At his right executive secretary Bjorn van Heusden.

The emergence of China as world’s greatest factory with its nearly unlimited labor reserves undermined the positions of worker’s worldwide even further. Chinese workers are organized in unions controlled by the communist government. Because of lack of freedom they have no other option than to accept labor conditions as established by their government: low wages and poor working conditions. But on a day Chinese workers will start to fight for their social rights. Nobody knows when, but someday it will happen.

Guenther Trausnitz, president of the WOW European Organization WOW/EO, was reelected as WOW Vice President.

It is clear that the world of labor has been pushed onto the defensive. What should be the answer of the free trade unions? Fight back, but how? We cannot go back to the past. We as unions have the task to develop a new vision for the future. What should be the basis of this new vision?

Roberto Mejia (to the right), President of the Latin American Federation of the Employees in the Communication and Cultural sectors FELATRACCS, informs the Congress on he activities of FELATRACCS. he was also reelected as Vice-President of WOW. To te left executive secretary Bjorn van Heusden.
We in WOW believe that our values as established in the past, can be of use today if we have the courage to reconsider them and to analyse reality with an open mind. That is what we did on the WOW World Congress held in Vancouver Canada, from 11 until 14th of September. We went back to our roots for the sake of the future of our unions.

Erwin Koenze(on the left) representing the Latin American Federation of  Employees in the Comercial sector FETRALCOS speaks about the activities of FETRALCOS in the last 4 years. On the right, behind the table, Miguel Duche representing the Latin American Federation of Employees in the Banking and Insurance sector FELATRABS. Miguel was elected as Vice President of WOW. In the middle executive secretary Bjorn van Heusden.

One of the results of the Congress was the adoption of the ‘Resolution on Workers’ Values’

1.    The World Congress of the WOW gathered in Vancouver, Canada from September 12 to 14 concluded that “Workers’ Values” should be the guiding principle of economic and social affairs in the world.
2.    Workers’ Values are based on the principle that the economy should benefit mankind and that all human-beings deserve to be treated with dignity and respect regardless of their religion, race or sex.
3.    Workers’ Values stand for ways to solve problems and conflict in the workplace, in the company or elsewhere by way of dialogue and cooperation bases on mutual respect and interest.
4.    Workers’ Values mean that every worker has the right to work and live with dignity and take his/her responsibilities on all levels of his/her life, be it in the workplace, his/her family as well as social life in the broad sense of the word.
5.    Workers’ Values should be the guiding principle to all collective agreements and their stakeholders.
6.    Workers’ Values include fairness, social justice, solidarity and transparency at every level of the society, from workplace to company, from community to nation-state and as well as on the international levels.
7.    Workers’ Values demand for transparent, open and democratic leadership on all levels of the society.

Dick Heinen, Executive Director of the Canadian CLAC was our host. He was elected as Vice President of WOW and as such he became a member of the WOW Worldboard.

Our task as unions is to make these ‘utopian values’ reality by developing an international, regional, national of local trade union strategy. Therefore we have to develop strong democratic unions as instruments to create the human world we want. Not easy but a honorable task.