COLOMBIAWHEREAS, the American Federation of Teachers is alarmed by the persistent violence against teachers and other working people in Colombia; trade unionists continue to be the targets of threats, physical intimidation, displacement, and even assassination, leading the annual report of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions to designate Colombia the "most dangerous country (in the world) for trade unionists;"
WHEREAS, the American Federation of Teachers recognizes that the present situation in Colombia is very complex, being the product of more than 40 years of serious political, economic, and social conflict; we believe organizations of both the left and the right, most notably the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (the "FARC"), and the Autonomous Defense Forces (the "AUC," commonly known as the "paras") share the responsibility for much of the violence and human rights abuse in Colombia;
WHEREAS, the American Federation of Teachers denounces the use of hundreds of boys and girls as child soldiers by paramilitary and guerrilla groups in the Colombian armed conflict;
WHEREAS, the AFT remains deeply concerned about the government of Colombia's recent efforts to modify current labor legislation, especially as they have referred to the repeal of collective bargaining rights for the public and teaching sectors, modifications in salary and pension plans, and the threat of increased privatization:
RESOLVED, that the American Federation of Teachers:
- call upon the government of Colombia, and all parties in conflict, to undertake concrete actions that lead to a negotiated peace agreement, as called for by the Education International (EI) Executive Board in its resolution of Oct. 23, 2003;
- in cooperation with the EI and with the Public Services International (PSI), support and assist our colleagues in the Colombian Federation of Educators (FECODE) and other public employee unions to protect their members and other working people and to promote a culture of peace and lawfulness in Colombia to end its decades of violence;
- urge the government of Colombia to do all within its constitutional and legal power to ensure that criminals of any political background are brought to justice, and so put an end to the perception of impunity for perpetrators of violence;
- call on the government of Colombia to take measures that are more effective and concrete, and aimed at eradicating the sad phenomenon of child soldiers;
- urge the government of Colombia to fully abide by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the ILO Fundamental Conventions, with the goal of fully protecting the rights of employees to freely associate, form unions, and provide for the future economic security of their families and communities;
- take additional note of the responsibility of the international business community, particularly U.S. firms such as the Coca-Cola Company, to increase their own efforts to ensure that the workers who produce and deliver their products are treated with dignity and respect, in accordance with the law, collective bargaining agreements and international treaties; and
- encourage AFT locals and individual members to participate in a letter-writing campaign to the Coca-Cola Company to pressure its Colombian branch to stop its harassment of employees seeking union representation and to respect basic trade union rights.
- urge the government of Colombia to take effective measures that protect the most vulnerable members of society: women, children, the elderly, ethnic minorities, and the people who have been forced into internal exile to protect their lives.
[Executive Council, October 2004]