David vs Goliath – Colombian community stands up to BP

13 Apr 2010 admin

Update on the workers and community struggle against BP at Casanare in Colombia: The USO oil workers are back at work and BP has agreed to negotiate, but community mobilisations continue:


Movements, particularly in the Global North, could probably learn from the Casanare struggle’s close alliance between BP workers and local community and environmental campaigners. The interests of one do not appear to be abandoned at the expense of others.

A statement by “residents of the region, trade unionists, environmentalists and human rights activists” asked

“Could it be that oil is one of the most important sources of violence? An oil economy leaves a huge environmental damage, it depletes the water, an essential element of life, causes climate change, producing daily disasters and causes loss of many lives.
An economy whose base is the creation of non-durable goods, unnecessary, for a few months of purchase in addition to the pounds of trash that we do not know where to put.

An economy that needs to exhaust the days of men and women in work that does not leave time for socializing, caring for their children, develop creativity and culture, as well as exercise and the right to rest.

An economy that looks like a basic obstacle to the environment, water resources and human rights. One obstacle to be overcome, crushed.

Then you think about if it is absolutely necessary that these resources are exploited by foreign companies, who do not respond to any democracy, no people other than the narrow interests of its shareholders.”

The Colombia Solidarity Campaign, which is organising a solidarity protest at BP’s London AGM on Thursday April 15 reported that”

“Workers at the BP processing plant at Tauramena, part of the Cusiana oil field in Casanare, Colombia went on strike on 22 January 2010 for improved wages. It was the first such labour stoppage in 18 years. On 15 February the notorious ESMAD ‘anti-mutiny’ police brutally attacked the workers’ picket line and the local community with teargas and beatings. three workers were hospitalised. The workers are members of the national Oil Workers Union USO that has only been able to organise in BP plants in the last year.

The workers are back at work, but the community mobilisations continue.

After a month of work stoppage and community protests, on 23 February BP at last met with the strikers and community representatives. The two sides reached a limited agreement, with some ambiguities. Earlier that day BP had tried to run a group of scabs through the picket line on the Tauramena Central Processing Facility (CPF), but the strikers chained themselves to the gates and successfully blocked the strike-breakers. The following day the 30 strikers at SAR Energy, the sub-contractor and their immediate employer, met with managers.

BP needs to recognise the harm it has done. Five negotiating commissions were going to be set up, dealing with labour problems, social investment, goods and services, environment and human rights. They were supposed to be inaugurated on 2 March, but the process nearly broke down due to BP’s arrogant attitude. On 7 March the community held a mass mobilization demonstrating the continuing anger. On 23 March the union USO and the community movement Movimiento de Dignidad por el Casanare presented their joint demands, BP promised to respond 14-16 April. We are waiting.

In the meantime, in the nearby city of Villavicencio at 11.1 Sam on Saturday 27 March two gunmen on a motorbike shot at USO union officials, fatally wounding their bodyguard.”

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