MAC: Mines and Communities

Urgent Action - Act Now for Mine Workers in Colombia

Published by MAC on 2004-05-01

Urgent Action - Act Now for Mine Workers in Colombia

1st May 2004

This month, SINTRAMIENERGETICA, the union for workers at Drummond Company's coal mine in Colombia, has been in negotiations with the company for a new contract. Drummond is a private U.S. company based in Birmingham, Alabama. Their mine in La Loma, Colombia, is the second largest coal mine in the country. They ship coal to North America, Europe, and Asia.

The union has pleaded for international solidarity. The union presidents told us on April 20, "The company refuses to make a single offer in terms of guarantees for human rights, freedom of association, transportation for workers, occupational health and safety, and pensions for workers in high-risk jobs."

There will probably be a strike vote Saturday, May 1st. This is a very dangerous time for the workers.

On April 14 a worker was killed in an accident at the company's port facility, an accident that resulted from a lack of proper safety precautions by the company. A nearly identical accident killed a worker last December.

In 2002, the accidental killing of workers at the La Loma mine led the union to pressure the company for better safety conditions. In the context of that dispute, paramilitaries assassinated the president and vice-president of the union and seven months later murdered the new president. Other leaders in the union have had to go into exile because of death threats.

The current negotiations have been taking place in Barranquilla. This means that the union negotiators have to travel back and forth to confer with the members in La Loma. The company has eliminated the safe air transport for that trip. Consequently, the negotiators are forced to make the dangerous trip by road. It was on the roads that the union leaders were murdered in 2002.

During the current negotiations, there have been increased threats by paramilitaries against the union leaders and their families.

Please send a message to Garry Drummond, CEO of Drummond Company. A sample message is below. Either cut and paste that message into your own email message, or use your own words. Send your message to

If you prefer to use surface mail, you can write to Garry Drummond, CEO, Drummond Co., Inc., P.O. Box 10246, Birmingham, Alabama 35202, USA

For further information, look at the Drummond Watch web site

Another easy action: One of Drummond's major customers is Southern Company. You can send a message to that company by going to and clicking in the box that says "Support Workers in Colombia."

Please take action.

Best wishes,
Patrick Bonner
Coordinator, Colombia Peace Project
Los Angeles, California, USA

Mr. Garry Drummond, CEO
Drummond Company, Inc.

Dear Mr. Drummond,

It has come to my attention that Drummond Company eliminated the safe air transport that had been provided for union negotiators to minimize the risks inherent in traveling from the negotiation site in Barranquilla to the mine site in La Loma. As you know, paramilitary
groups have suddenly and suspiciously increased their threats against union leaders, demanding that they leave the region. Your action suggests that you are acting in concert with paramilitary forces to deprive the workers of leadership during this period of negotiations.

Your action forces the union leaders to travel by land, running the risk of being disappeared or assassinated by paramilitaries. As you know, your refusal to provide security has had grisly consequences in the recent past, facilitating the torture and murder of Valmore Locarno, Victor Orcasita and Gustavo Soler. I am appalled that you continue to rely upon paramilitary violence to increase Drummond's profits at the expense of the workers and their families.

The mineworkers must work over 12 hours daily. At the end of their shifts, they must sleep in a region full of paramilitaries, running grave risks while your company acts with shocking indifference to the deadly peril they face. The workers have pled with you directly to let them stay in the Drummond complex overnight, where it is safer, but you have consistently rejected their pleas. At the same time, you grant this permission to foreigners and subcontractors.

Like many others, I am following the negotiations and the situation at La Loma very closely. I am aware that you have refused to negotiate in good faith, failing even to consider such issues as worker safety, medical care for injured workers, decent food, fair wages, and
security. I urge you in the strongest possible terms to take the following steps:

*Immediately restore safe air transport for the union leaders and take measures to protect the lives and physical integrity of the workers.

*Permit the workers to stay overnight in the mining complex.

*Desist from using the threat of paramilitary violence to affect the outcome of the negotiations.

*Negotiate in good faith and comply with Colombian labor law.


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