In July 2015, Sister Sharon De Sousa, REVP for PSAC Ontario, and Brother Marc Brière, UTE, National Vice-president, participated in a Frontlines’ mission to Colombia building on the solidarity that has been forged between Colombian and Canadian public sector workers over the last 10 years.
Frontlines is an exchange program promoted by four national public sector unions - the CUPW, PSAC, CUPE and NUPGE that aims to build mutual solidarity between the public sector workers in Canada and Colombia in their fight to stop the privatization of public assets and services.
During the mission, the 11 member delegation learned how the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement encourages Private Public partnerships, the privatization of public services, and direct investments by Canadian mining, oil and gas companies, resulting in the massive dislocation of farmers, Indigenous peoples and Afrocolombian people from their ancestral lands.
The delegation also met with the Union of Postal Workers, which is now attempting to organize private courier companies that have largely replaced the public postal service after the government violently dismantled and privatized the public company.
Hospital Workers and unions representing workers from the Federal Tax and Customs Department and the Ministry of Justice met with the delegation to share information about the tremendous obstacles and repression they face in their attempt to exercise the right to collective bargaining in the public sector.
The Oil Workers Union from the public oil company, ECOPETROL talked about their historic struggle to keep petroleum resources in the public domain, while the government is handing more resource development and exploitation to the Transnational companies, like the Canadian based Pacific Rubiales. It became evident that communities and unions that are resisting privatization and displacement are being criminalized and silenced through legislation or direct violence, as in the case of the Oil workers who have had a number of leaders killed.
At the end of the visit, the delegation met with Canadian Embassy representatives in Bogota and voiced their concerns about the on-going repression against union leaders, human rights defenders and displaced communities that are being targeted by the military and paramilitary forces in the country. Colombia is in the midst of a precarious peace process and our solidarity at this time is critical.