The Colombian government has been trying to privatize municipal sanitation and utility services for years.
Despite public opposition and the unions’ efforts to prove the viability of their services, in January, Colombia sold off three of the four garbage pick up routes in Cali. They also closed the city landfill site.
The government moved in Mar. 26, dissolving EMSIRVA, the city-owned waste disposal company, using riot police and soliders to evict the workers from their workplace.
The move puts 439 union members out of work, including Maria Fernanda Bolanos, who toured Canada in 2008 as part of a solidarity exchange.
Meanwhile, at EMCALI, the municipal utilities company, two union executives and four fired workers have begun a hunger strike to protest a government-appointed trustee’s decison to fire still more union members. (In all, 54 union members have been fired since the government took over the company in 2004.)
The unions are asking for email and letters to Colombia’s president and cabinet ministers. The government needs to know the world is watching.
Sixteen members of Cali’s public sector unions have been killed since 2004, including union executive Carlos Alberto Chicaiza Betancourt.
“This is privatization at gun point,” said Moist. “It’s chilling to think that the people who are doing this are those with whom our government has just signed a trade agreement.”