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BCTF International Solidarity Blog

Free the teacher union president in Ecuador

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Several union leaders have been imprisoned in Ecuador, including the past president of the National Union of Teachers, Mary Zamora.  She is an English teacher and has been imprisoned as a resutl of her leadership role.

Ecuador's populist president must stop persecuting labour and social leaders. That's the message we're asking trade unionists around the world to send today to Rafael Correa.

An online campaign launched on LabourStart is expected to generate thousands of messages calling on Correa to free Dr Carlos Figueroa, ex-leader of the Ecuadorian Medical Federation, Cléver Jiménez Cabrera, the Pachakutik Movement parliamentarian, his advisor, Fernando Villavicencio Valencia, ex-leader of the oil workers' trade union, and Mary Zamora, ex-president of the National Union of Teachers.

The jailed union leaders had asked the public prosecutor to investigate the propriety of the President’s order for military intervention to "rescue" him from the National Police Hospital in Quito during a political crisis in September 2010. The violent military action resulted in a number of deaths. Correa accused the union leaders of "hacking" his email; they claim they were merely investigating corruption.

Public Services International, a global union representing millions of public sector workers, initiated the current campaign on LabourStart.

Please take a moment to show your support for the campaign:

http://www.labourstartcampaigns.net/show_campaign.cgi?c=2262&src=unionbook

President of a Mexican union works from Vancouver

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 Why has the president of a Mexican union been carrying out his duties in Vancouver, rather than in Mexico?  A puzzling question. 

Napolean Gomez is the of the Mexican National Miners’ Union and has been forced into exile because of his campaigning to get a mining company to be held responsible for what he calls “industrial homicide.”  His members working in northern Mexico were trapped by a collapse of a mine.  The government and the company just left the miners to die. 

He was seeking accountability of the Mexican government and the company.  They allowed unsafe conditions and abandoned the miners who paid the penalty for company greed and government corruption. 

The government brought criminal charges against Gomez to try to shut him up.  He then came to Canada to avoid being unjustly imprisoned.  His members re-elected him as president and he has used technology to be engaged in the work of the union from a distance. 

Gomez has written a book called Collapse of Dignity:  The story of a mining tragedy and the fight against greed and corruption in Mexico.  One commentator said the book is “a powerful testimony to the attack by corrupt politicians and cynical businessmen to silence a union and its leader.” 

The Steelworkers’ union has been supporting Gomez in Vancouver as an act of solidarity.  Our teacher colleagues in Mexico have also faced repression and sometimes death when they stand up to the corruption in government and in their own union.  They have organized in the CNTE, a group within the SNTE teachers’ union to challenge corruption and democratize their national union. 

If you are interested in how teacher unions in Canada work with colleagues in Mexico, you can find a link to an article posted at the bottom of the Tri-national Coalition webpage at http://bit.ly/1noJx2W. 

Danger for teacher unionists in Colombia

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Prof. Luis Grubert Ibarra, President FECODE on the dangers faced by teachers and trade unionists in Colombia 

 

The context for what is happening in Colombia was set out by BCTF president, Jim Iker, when he introduced at the 2014 BCTF Annual General Meeting.

By far the largest union in Colombia, FECODE represents more than 300,000 teachers and education workers across the country. 

For many years now Colombia has been the most dangerous country in the world for trade unionists.

Above all, it’s the most dangerous country in the world for teacher trade unionists.

Here are some disturbing statistics from a study by Education International:

Between 1999 and 2005, 1,174 trade unionists were murdered worldwide.

The vast majority – 816 of them – were Colombian.

And here’s the most shocking part: More than half of those – 416 – were teachers who were killed because they stood up for their union, their members, and their students.

This is the kind of murderous situation that Luis and his colleagues confront on a daily basis. In the past year alone, 12 teachers have been killed.

And while the number of assassinations is shocking, that’s only part of the violence they face.

Forced disappearances, arbitrary imprisonment, and physical attacks, including torture, are commonplace.

Repeated death threats cause many members to flee their homes and jobs, sometimes going into internal exile or seeking sanctuary abroad.

Exacerbating the problem is the impunity enjoyed by the perpetrators of the violence. Virtually no one is ever arrested for murders or other crimes committed against trade unionists in Colombia.  The national union confederation says that in over 97% of assassinations nobody has been convicted.

Despite this incredibly difficult reality, Luis and the members of FECODE continue the struggle.

Last September they launched a national strike demanding:

an end to privatisation,

payment of salaries owed to them,

decent working conditions in schools, and

an end to the campaign of oppression and intimidation against trade unionists.

A video recording of Luis’ speech, in Spanish and English translation, can be found on the BCTF YouTube channel at http://bit.ly/R1ANFy