May 20, 2012

Those of us who recently attended the Labor Notes conference in Chicago met Jorge Parra, a GM worker from Columbia and president of ASOTRECOL, was in the United States to publicize the situation at their plant. You can find/friend them on Facebook, contact them by email at, or contact Parra directly at We are reprinting an article by Jessica Hayssen, who was in Columbia last fall on a Witness for Peace delegation. – The Editors

by Jessica Hayssen

Fired for getting injured at work


A safe workplace. A voice at work. These are human rights that workers worldwide take for granted. Yet, this is exactly why workers at the GM plant in Bogotá, Columbia have been fired. The workers simply want to get well, have a meeting with GM to improve the labor standards in the plant, and most importantly go back to work.
Since August 1, 2011 ASOTRECOL, The group of injured and fired workers from GM’s Chevrolet plant in Bogotá has had a tent set up across the street from the U.S. Embassy. They’ve flown the U.S. Flag upside down – an international symbol indicating distress.
Attention they have received! U.S. Marines have come by and threatened them. When our Witness for Peace delegation brought it up at our meeting with the U.S. Embassy, they were told that the group should turn the flag right side up. We told Amanda Porter of the U.S. Embassy about the threats the group has received. She acted surprised and said it was the first time she had heard about it. A few days later, ASOTRECOL turned the flag to its original stance to avoid further stress. However, they are giving up.
Workers in the GM plant in Bogotá make Chevrolet vehicles for the local market. The plant’s labor standards are that of 50 years ago. Injuries from the courageous workers who have come forth include; vertebrae hernia, carpel tunnel, joints/tendinitis, injuries to shoulders and elbows, to name a few. When we asked them if this was a plan to shut down the GM Bogotá plant, they told us no. In fact, GM wants to expand and upgrade the plant.
GM Colomortores/ South America hired doctors which examined the injured workers and determined that the workplace injuries were not workplace injuries. The doctors recommended to the bosses that these workers be fired. So they were. And the corrupt labor inspectors signed off on the paperwork covering up the injuries.
According to the Labor Action Plan which was part of the Columbian Free Trade Agreement, over 400 labor inspectors were to be hired. In the case of GM, one of these labor inspectors was found guilty of corruption and was sanctioned.
Still, when the injured workers apply for compensation, the company routinely stalls all efforts to secure the documentation and further corruption happens. It’s no surprise that more workers haven’t come forth to claim injuries.
This is happening right under the nose of the U.S. Embassy. Columbian officials who should have been monitoring and enforcing the Labor Accords before the full implementation of the Columbian Free Trade Agreement have apparently failed. All of this is being done when the U.S. still owns 26% of the GM common stock.

Popular Post

Blogger templates

© The Autoworker Caravan. Powered by Blogger.

- Copyright © Autoworker Caravan Blog -Metrominimalist- Powered by Blogger - Designed by Johanes Djogan -