THE JUST PROTEST OF SUGARCANE CUTTERS, IN NEED OF SOLIDARITY
*The strike by workers in the sugarcane industry, begun on September 15, continues under difficult conditions*
*September 23, 2008*
After exhausting various avenues for demanding conditions which guarantee decent work opportunities, this past September 15 around 12,000 sugarcane cutters began their work stoppage. With a week having gone by the workers are holding firm to their just demands, in the midst of a disinformation campaign, repression, and the use of force, reasons for which an urgent call is being made for solidarity with the sugarcane cutters and their families.
This difficult situation for the sugarcane workers is not new and has been heightened with the peak of the biofuel industry.
During 2007, 2.28 metric tons of sugar were produced in the country, 31% of them exported, as well as 753,425 liters of ethanol, daily. The production of ethanol – it is an imperative to mix it with gasoline according to the policies of the national government - began in 2005, and is carried out by 5 sugar refineries, the property of 3 families.
This according to the Unified Workers' Center (CUT) of Colombia.
Ethanol is exempt from the value added tax (16%), the extra tax on gasoline (25%), and the general tax, all of which are equivalent to approximately 153 million dollars annually that do not go into the state's coffers and which the refineries are saving for themselves.
In that same year, 2005, a sugar workers' protest took place, demonstrating against precarious work and hiring conditions.
Currently the country has around 200,000 hectares of cane for producing sugar and 40,000 hectares for ethanol production. Some 18,000 cutters work in these plantations, with contracts that are in the system of Associated Work Cooperatives, which eliminate direct contractual relationships with the businesses. In that system, the workers have to assume the payment of social security (health, pensions, professional risks), and as a result the business exempts itself from these labor costs. That, combined with the arduous conditions and extensive workdays in the country, forms a slave-like type of employment.
Today four unions and independent cutters remain on strike as a form to obtain a change in the described conditions and they require more backing and solidarity than we can provide. We invite you to sign and send the attached letter to the addresses given at the end.
Currently we need URGENT support for and SOLIDARITY with the more than 8,000 workers on strike and their families. Amongst their basic needs:
- Painkillers and first aid elements
- Potable water
These forms of assistance can be sent to:
Sinalcorteros Florida Valle Calle
19 a #10-81 barrio Villa Miel ó a la CUT Seccional Valle carrera 11 B
#22-36 Cali, Valle del Cauca
We can also channel your help directly to the cutters that have arrived in Bogotá.
Send your letters to:
with a copy to:
Diego Alejandro Cardona Calle
Selvas y Biodiversidad
Censat Agua Viva
Colombia Support Network
P.O. Box 1505
Madison, WI 53701-1505
phone: (608) 257-8753
fax: (608) 255-6621