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Strike Averted with new Collective Agreement for Colombian Banana Workers

Posted to the IUF website 30-May-2006

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The Colombian rural workers union SINTRAINAGRO has successfully negotiated a new three-year collective agreement for the country's 16,000 banana workers, thus averting a sector-wide strike for which the union had prepared (click here for background). Agreement was reached on May 25 following intense, continuous negotiations with employers involving the direct participation of the federal Minister for Social Protection in the final phase.

The new agreement provides for a wage increase of 6.5% for the first year, full adjustment for the cost of living in the second, and a cost of living increase plus 1.5% in the third year. In addition, the employers will make substantial additions to the social fund (administered jointly with the union) and to the fund for education, culture and sport.

Union leaders attributed the successful outcome to the strong support of the national foodworkers federation UNAC of which SINTRAINAGRO forms part, and the international support of the IUF, which intervened twice with the government to express support for the union's negotiating position. SINTRAINAGRO President Guillermo Rivera emphasized that the new agreement demolishes the employers' opportunistic claim that the new European Union banana tariffs render impossible any improvement in working and living conditions for banana workers. The union's ability to preserve and build on a sectoral agreement covering 16,000 workers, according to UNAC President Luis Alejandro Pedraza, is of crucial importance in a country where collective bargaining is normally restricted to enterprise level, and represents an important victory for Colombian workers as a whole.