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Colombia: S.O.S SINTRAEMCALI (Public Utility Union): 60 WORKERS SACKED

Colombia Solidarity Campaign | 15.07.2004 13:38 | Social Struggles

60 workers including SINTRAEMCALI President Luis Hernandez and 5 other members of the union’s leadership sacked – 14 July 2004
SINTRAEMCALI are famous for successfully resisting privatisation in 2001 under the previous national government, when they occupied the HQ of their employers - EMCALI - the Public utility service provider in Cali. The occupation lasted over 30 days, after which the former Colombian president reached a negotiated settlement with the workers, assuring them that the state-run service would not only not be privatised, but that SINTRAEMCALI's workers would gain management control of the service. The new President - Uribe - disassociated himself with this agreement.
SINTRAEMCALI hold workers' assemblies to achieve popular mandates. Their stated priority is to achieve an efficient service, at the service of the poor. In the time they were in effective control of Cali during a brief period in 2001, they managed to sack corrupt managers - replaced by teams of specialist workers.


SINTRAEMCALI the Cali municipal services workers union, NOMADESC the Association of Research and Action and the PROHIBIDO OLVIDAR [NEVER FORGET] campaign denounce:


This morning, 14 July 2004, CARLOS ALFONSO POTES the Director of EMCALI EICE ESP sacked 60 workers amongst whom are the union SINTRAEMCALI’s president LUIS HERNÁNDEZ, vice-president LUIS IMBACHI, treasurer CARLOS OCAMPO, adviser OSCAR FIGUEROA , secretary general FABIO BEJARANO and spokesperson CARLOS MARMOLEJO.

SINTRAEMCALI has been denouncing POTES for his involvement in corruption. Despite the finding of the Prosecutor General that POTES should be obliged to step down, both the superintendent of public services EVA MARIA URIBE and the national President ALVARO URIBE VELEZ ratified POTES in his post.

POTES wrote to the workers stating "Allow me to communicate to you that EMCALI EICE ESP has unilaterally resolved to terminate your work contract with just cause as from the date of this notice… the final liquidation of wages and social payments will be at your disposition within the legal terms set out for official workers, starting from the date of this notice…"

What is even more serious is that several workers and their families, amongst them that of LUIS HERNANDEZ in the last few weeks.

It is important to recall that during this process of defending EMCALI EICE ESP 16 workers and active members of SINTRAEMCALI have been assassinated, a hundred have been arbitrarily detained, 5 are in exile and 10 have been victims of assassination attempts. Two workers who suffered severe injuries from an explosion during the last permanent assembly are now charged with terrorism.


SINTRAEMCALI has fought hard to prevent the privatisation of public services. EMCALI EICE ESP and EPM the Public Corporation of Medellín, are the only public multi-service corporations in the country managing Water, Electricity and Communications services. It is because of this struggle by the workers sacked today that EMCALI continues being a State Commercial and Industrial Corporation (EICE). The workers of EMCALI have demonstrated that it is a viable and profitable corporation, with a daily income of 3,500 million pesos and a monthly income of 110,000 million pesos [approximately US $ 40 million]. Currently there are 250 corruption case being brought, worth approximately 2 million million pesos [approximately US $750 million] against local politicians.

SINTRAEMCALI has lead the defence of EMCALI. The two most recent actions were the peaceful occupation of the EMCALI Tower that lasted 36 days from 24 December 2001 to 29 January 2002 which reversed the decision to liquidate the corporation and its sale to the multinationals. The government of Andrés Pastrana signed an agreement.

In spite of this agreement, on 9 August 2002, just two days after he took office, [the new president] ALVARO URIBE VELEZ travelled to Cali to speak of his privatisation proposal. The union opposed this and carried out a protest, showing Uribe that there was full support from the citizens of Cali. Uribe demanded that the union renegotiate its Collective Agreement to save the corporation from bankruptcy.

Believing that the union would not accept its demands, and that it would be able to proceed directly with liquidation as he had happened with Telecom [a state telephone company], the national government made an agreement with international banks that openly benefited the multinationals. SINTRAEMCALI decided it would renegotiate the Collective Agreement and put forward its own proposal for a social solution, that is that the savings from workers’ remunerations over five years would be invested in health and education projects in the most needy communities.

But contrary to what the government was claiming, it was not the Collective Agreement that had caused EMCALI’s supposed bankruptcy. The real reasons are the financial losses incurred by the PTAR Waste Water Treatment Plant project, with a debt of US $250 million, and the Termoeléctrica project with debts of US $ 600 million. Both these projects were negotiated by local politicians with corruption their common denominator.

SINTRAEMCALI accepted changes to the Collective Agreement, while the government negotiated an agreement with the national and international banks that is harmful for EMCALI corporation and undermines the city of Cali’s administrative, financial and juridical autonomy for the next 20 years. This agreement benefits multinationals such as Intergen, Aguas de Barcelona, Unión FENOSA and in the medium and long term hands over to them the management and use of public assets. This violation of the constitutional and legal faculties of the city’s Mayor, that tramples on the rights of the community is an illegal agreement that attempts to ensure the corporation’s future privatisation.

It was in these circumstances that on 26 May 2004 the workers declared a Permanent Assembly and again peacefully occupied the CAM Tower. This time the occupation lasted but four days, as the reaction of the national government was for military pressure threatening to terminate the occupation violently. This permanent assembly was subsequently declared illegal and this is the basis of the sackings.

It is for the above reasons that we ask you to:

* Demand that the national government immediately restores the sacked workers to their posts.

* That the national government fulfils the commitments made to the workers of EMCALI EICE not to liquidate or privatise EMCALI EICE ESP, and as a consequence that it modifies the agreement made with the national and international banks.

* That the state’s control organisations [Ombudsman, Prosecutor General etc.] inform the public of the results of the investigations they are carrying out into crimes committed against the workers.

Asociación Para la Investigación y Acción Social NOMADESC
Sindicato de Trabajadores de Las Empresas Municipales de Cali SINTRAEMCALI
Sindicato De Los Trabajadores Universitarios De Colombia SINTRAUNICOL
La Unión Sindical Obrera USO
Asociación para el Desarrollo Social Integral ECATE
Central Unitaria De Los Trabajadores CUT - VALLE DEL CAUCA
Corporación Servicios Profesionales Comunitarios SEMBRAR
Sindicato de Trabajadores de la Minería en Colombia SINTRAMINERCOL
Movimiento Estudiantil del Valle del Cauca y Nariño
Fundación Comité De Solidaridad Con Presos Políticos Seccional Valle del Cauca
Sintramunicipio Bugalagrande; Sintramunicipio Yumbo; Sintramunicipio Dagua; Sintrametal Yumbo
Organizaciones Barriales Juveniles Artísticas y Populares de Santiago de Cali

Translated and forwarded by Colombia Solidarity Campaign

Please send messages to / Favor enviar comunicaciones a DIRECCIONES:

Presidencia de la República Dr. Álvaro Uribe Vélez,
Cra. 8 No..7-26, Palacio de Nariño,
Santa fe de Bogotá.
Fax: (+57 1) 566.20.71 E-mail:

[to send e-mail to Uribe login to and click on ESCRIBALE AL PRESIDENTE at the bottom of the page. Para enviar correo al Sr Presidente, dirmjase a la pagina Web: y haga clic en ESCRIBALE AL PRESIDENTE ubicado en la parte inferior, al final de la pagina.]

Vicepresidencia de la República Dr. Francisco Santos

Ministerio de Defensa Nacional Dr. Jorge Alberto Uribe
El Dorado con Carrera. 52 CAN, Santa fe de Bogotá.
Fax: (+57 1)222.18.74 E-mail: , , ,

Procuraduría General de la Nación, Dr. Edgardo José Maya Villazón

Carrera 5 No. 15-80, Santa Fe de Bogotá.
Fax: (+57 1)342.97.23 E-mail: ;

Programa Presidencial de Derechos Humanos y de Derecho Internacional Humanitario.
Dr. Carlos Franco
Calle 7 N° 5-54
TEL: (+571) 336.03.11
FAX: (+57 1) 337.46.67
E- mail: ; E-mail:

Fiscalía General de la Nación, Dr. Luis Camilo Osorio
Diagonal 22 B No.52-01; Santa fe de Bogotá.
Fax: (+571) 570 20 00 E-mail: ;

Unidad de Derechos Humanos y de Derecho Internacional Humanitario
E - mail:

Defensoría del Pueblo, Dr. Volmar Antonio Pérez Ortiz.
Calle 55 No. 10-32 ; Santa Fe de Bogotá.
Fax: (+571) 640 04 91 E-mail:

Misión Permanente de Colombia ante las Naciones Unidas en Ginebra.
Chemin du Champ d'Anier 17-19, 1209 Ginebra.
FAX: (+4122)791.07.87; (+4122)798.45.55 E-mail: E-mail

With copies to:

Asociación para la Investigación y Acción Social Nomadesc
Calle 18 No 6-54 Cali Valle del Cauca Colombia

E-mail mailto:

Campaña "Prohibido Olvidar" E-mail

And, in the UK, to :

Colombian Embassy (UK):

With a copy to the Colombia Solidarity Campaign at

Colombia Solidarity Campaign
- Homepage: