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Former public sector workers in Cali, Colombia are trying to eke out a living while waiting for justice in the courts and at the ILO.

The government liquidated the publicly-owned corporations that provided Cali’s basic municipal services Mar. 26, 2009.

And while CUPE and other unions donated and offered other support to the union (SINTRAEMSIRVA), the liquidation went ahead.

SINTRAEMSIRVA have been maintaining a camp outside company headquarters, sueing the government over the mass firings, and working with other levels of government to create a viable, alternative public service company.

SINTRAEMSIRVA past President and activist, Juan Carlos Ortiz told Vancouver-based solidarty organization CoDev:


On April 27 all of us fired workers gathered in protest outside the EMSIRVA headquarters. The union prepared coffee in large quantities for everyone because we couldn’t offer them breakfast or lunch. We also began to assist in preparing grievances and cases for our members. Your support helped pay for paper, photocopying, faxes, etc. In addition, because we needed secretarial help in preparing the cases, we offered the secretaries, who were also fired in the liquidation, some help with their bus fare to come and work with us.


In late May, the union - with support from PSI - filed a complaint with the ILO over the liquidation of EMSIRVA and the illegal firings of the workers.

Meanwhile hundreds of fired workers are trying to eke out a living. Maria Fernanda Bolaños, who visited CUPE in the summer of 2008 wrote to say she is selling empanadas on the street.

Other workers are seen in this video selling papers and protesting at traffic lights in the city. The signs seen in the video say: “Former EMSIRVA workers demand the right to work. No more begging in Cali.”