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POA Conference 2022 Trade unionists in Colombia under threat and in need of support from British labour movement

COLOMBIAN trade unionists are under increasing threat and urgently need the British labour movement’s support, a fringe meeting at the Prison Officers’ Association’s (POA) conference was told today.

The event, organised by the Justice for Colombia campaign, heard that political repression and paramilitary violence has made the South American country the world’s most dangerous place for those defending workers’ rights. 

About 1,200 unionists and activists have been murdered there in recent years, despite a landmark peace agreement in 2016 which ended a decades-long conflict between the government and Marxist guerilla group the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc). 

The former rebels, now rebuilding their lives as peasant farmers, warn their repression has increased since the 2018 election of right-wing President Ivan Duque, who campaigned against the deal.

Justice for Colombia’s Nick MacWilliam stressed that the campaign, set up in 2002, would continue to work with unions to push government ministers to speak out.

“It’s important that we maintain that pressure,” he told delegates in Eastbourne.

“Unions are the primary voice for workers in this country – the majority of people.”

POA general secretary Steve Gillan is due to accompany a Justice for Colombia delegation on a visit to the country next week. 

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