UNISON delegates in Brighton today offered a powerful, visual show of support for an imprisoned Colombian trade unionist.
Huber Ballesteros, a Colombian TUC leader and vice-president of his country’s agricultural union, has been in jail for 10 months, on “spurious” charges, after organising a national strike.
Hundreds of delegates in the conference hall raised an image of Mr Ballesteros in front of their faces, while UNISON vice president Wendy Nichols made a statement demanding his release.
The delegates also watched a video message from Mr Ballesteros, which he recorded from jail.
Colombia remains the most dangerous country in the world to be a trade unionist, with thousands murdered, displaced, disappeared or jailed in recent years. Despite a peace process currently taking place between the Colombian government and the guerilla organisation FARC, 15 per cent more trade unionists were killed in 2013 than in 2012.
Ms Nichols said: “The Colombian government continues to fail in its obligation to protect trade unionists. We demand that it respects human rights, respects the rights of trade unionists to represent their members, and stop targeting trade unionists.”
The union reasserted its support for the peace process, as well as civil society’s demands for inclusion in that process.
The conference heard of the many practical projects that UNISON has been undertaking to assist trade unions in Colombia.
While that work continues, all regions and branches in the union are being encouraged to join Justice for Colombia.