Union leaders tell Colombians free trade will hurt, not help

    BOGOTA, Colombia, July 28 /CNW Telbec/ - Free trade with Colombia will
lead to worse human and labour rights abuses and further devastation of
communities at risk, four of Canada's public sector leaders said at a news
conference in Bogota on July 24, capping a week-long tour.
    Here is the statement the leaders read to several Colombian media
reporters following a meeting with leaders of the United Central of Workers
(CUT), one of three central labour bodies:
    "We have met with many sectors of Colombian society, including government
officials, the United Central of Workers (CUT) and other trade unions,
opposition leaders, non-governmental organizations, groups representing
indigenous and Afro-Colombian peoples as well as the Canadian ambassador.
    "We also were present to hear the final report of the Permanent People's
Tribunal following two years of hearings in six sectors of the Colombian
economy. The report condemned the Colombian government and transnational
corporations for countless violations of human and trade union rights.
    "Our overwhelming conclusion is that a free trade agreement will not help
the Colombian people. It will only exacerbate an already horrifying list of
human and labour rights abuses that are shocking the world.
    "Colombia continues to be the most dangerous country on earth for trade
unions and civil society activists. Since the beginning of 2008, 32 trade
unionists have been assassinated. We have also observed that Colombia has no
juridical framework that permits free collective bargaining.
    "On our return to Canada, we will tell our one million members, our
government and all Canadians that it is unacceptable to sign a free trade
agreement with Colombia as long as trade unionists are at risk and free
collective bargaining and other labour and human rights continue to be
    The statement was signed by Denis Lemelin, national president of the
Canadian Union of Postal Workers, Paul Moist, national president of the
Canadian Union of Public Employees, John Gordon, national president of the
Public Service Alliance of Canada and George Heyman, international
vice-president of the National Union of Public and General Employees.

For further information:

For further information: The leaders are available for comment and
interviews with news reporters: Ron Verzuh, (613) 237-1590, ext. 253, (613)
806-1240, rverzuh@cupe.ca

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