Capital: Bogota
Population: 47.79m. (2014 est.)

Colombia ratified ILO conventions No.87 (Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise, 1948) and No.98 (Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining, 1949), in 1976.

The history of anti-union violence is a long one. A 1928 strike at the US-owned United Fruit company resulted in ‘the massacre of the banana workers’ when several hundred were killed by the army. In 1977 the then four leading confederations joined in a general strike in which about 18 people were killed in clashes with the security forces. By the 1980s ‘disappearances’ and assassinations of political and union leaders by paramilitary groups were endemic. Violence continued throughout the 1990s, peaking in 2002 when 184 murders were reported. The exact numbers of violations are disputed, but even the figures claimed by the Government are strikingly high. The murder rate decreased significantly iinto the 2010s, however the level of threats, displacement, and other forms of harassment actually increased at times during this period. In recent years the situation has deteriorated significantly, with numerous killings of trade unionists reported in 2017 and 2018.

The left-leaning Central Unitaria de Trabajadores (CUT, English: Central Union of Workers) was founded in 1986 and organises key sectors in industry (oil, power, agro-chemical) and the public sector - affiliates include the principal teaching union FECODE, Colombia's largest formal union, with 250,000 members. CUT is affiliated to the ITUC, though several key affiliates maintain a relationship with the WFTU. With roots in the Christian labour movement tradition dating back to the 1940s, the Confederación General de Trabajadores (CGT, English: General Confederation of Workers) led 10 Latin American trade unions in a break away from the ITUC to found a new regional centre, la Alternativa Democrática Sindical de las Américas (ADS, English: Democratic Alternative Union for the Americas). The third national centre, Confederación de Trabajadores de Colombia (CTC, English: Confederation of Workers of Colombia) has a liberal tradition. CTC organises industrial and public sector employments though its membership is significantly below that of the CUT. CTC affiliates to the ITUC.

Full details of the country's political history, the development of trade unionism, and contact and affiliation details for all national trade union centres can be found in ICTUR's in-depth global reference book: Trade Unions of the World.

Link to reportFull country profile: Colombia, from Trade Unions of the World (2016)

Link to letterIntervention letter: political killings and death threats (2018)

Link to letterIntervention letter: political killings and death threats (2017)

Link to reportIUR article: 'Trade Union Rights in Colombia', Justice for Colombia (2016)

Link to reportBook chapter: 'Colombia: the Most Dangerous Place to be a Union Member, Blackburn / Puerto (2015)

Link to reportIUR article: 'Tantamount to a Death List', Blackburn / Puerto (2014)


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