Media Release: Public sector unionist assassinated in Colombia


Public sector unionist assassinated as the ILO Governing Body fails to

support a Commission of Inquiry in Colombia


"The decision of the ILO Governing Body not to establish a Commission of

Inquiry into violations of trade union rights in Colombia threatens to

undermine the legitimacy and credibility of the international community in

the eyes of Colombian trade unionists and civil society,” said Hans

Engelberts, General Secretary of Public Services International. This

decision was taken last Friday, June 20 2003. The International

Confederation of Free Trade Unions has also expressed its deep



On Friday, as the ILO Governing Body was reaching its decision not to act,

PSI received information of the assassination of yet another public service

trade unionist. Orlando Fernández Toro was gunned down by unknown people at

7:40 am on the morning of 17th June as he was leaving his place of work in

Valledupar. He was on his way home after completing a night shift. Orlando

was a member of the National Bargaining Commission of the PSI affiliate, the

Trade Union of Workers and Employees of Autonomous and Decentralised Public



This is the 10th member of SINTRAEMSDES to be assassinated in the last 2

years. In all these 10 cases, despite persistent pressure from the Colombian

human rights organisations, trade unions and the international community, no

one has been charged. These crimes remain, like the 3,500 other cases of

trade unionists killed since 1987, in complete impunity.


On Friday, as the ILO Governing Body was reaching its decision not to act,

PSI also received the information of the arbitrary dismissal of Efraín

Castellanos Hernández, the Vice President of the Bogotá Branch of

SINTRAEMSDES. At the same time, the Ministry of Social Protection, which has

replaced the Ministry of Labour under the government of President Alvaro

Uribe, announced its intention to carry out disciplinary hearings against

other SINTRAEMSDES trade union leaders and members.


This assassination, the dismissal and the disciplinary hearings take place

as the date for the renewal of the collective agreement approaches. “What

more evidence does the ILO Governing Body require? In these conditions,

technical assistance to the government of Colombia is clearly not

sufficient. How can Colombian trade unionists maintain their faith in

international institutions in the face of the repeated failure of the

tripartite system of the ILO?” said Hans Engelberts.


June 23 2003