Colombia’s largest company, state controlled Ecopetrol released video showing the unauthorized entry of USO (Union Sindical Obrera de la Industria del Petrolero) activists last Tuesday at the oil producer’s Pozos Colorados facility, on the Atlantic coast, south of Santa Marta. According to Ecopetrol, the activists violated the access procedures, causing physical damage, and putting the security of petroleum workers at risk.
“The company respects the free exercise of union activity. The entry of the [union] leaders is permitted under article nine of the labor agreement, always, and when those visits are scheduled and comply with the entry procedures that apply to all workers, and that don’t risk the security of personnel or installations,” said the comany in a statement sent to Finance Colombia.
For its part, the union says, via its website, “The USO emphatically rejects the anti-union conduct of the Ecopetrol administration, such as their lying press release of April 14th, where, without basis, accuses some union leaders of entering the company’s installation, generating physical damage, and putting the security of the workers at risk.”
The petroleum sector is facing massive layoffs in Colombia and across the globe, as oil prices remain in a slump, creating labor pressure from unions and oil producing regions of the country, as the sector accounts for over half of Colombia’s exports, and a major portion of GDP. The union voted March fourth to authorize a strike, though it has not done so. Under Colombian law, it would be illegal for full time petroleum sector workers to strike, as they are considered an essential service. The government has assured the union that there are no plans for a full privatization of Ecopetrol in the works.