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Press Release: Mediation with GM fails, workers re-start hunger strike

Press Release
September 3, 2012 

U.S./English speaking contact: Jess Hunter-Bowman, 202-547-6112, jess@witnessforpeace.org

ASOTRECOL contact: Jorge Alberto Parra Andrade, asotrecol@gmail.com, http://asotrecol.com/


Washington, DC – As people across the United States begin celebrating Labor Day, the association of injured Colombian GM workers, ASOTRECOL, announced that a mediation process with GM has ended without a settlement and the workers will immediately re-start their hunger strike, continuing until a fair and just settlement is reached with General Motors.

“After four days of good faith mediation with GM Colmotores, during which time we put forth proposals to reach a fair and just settlement, unfortunately we were not able to reach an agreement,” said Jorge Parra, president of the injured workers’ association, ASOTRECOL. “Therefore, we have decided that our only remedy is to re-start our hunger strike immediately, starting today.”

“While we were disappointed that GM Colmotores was not willing to accept a settlement that met our demands, we are grateful to the mediators from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, the U.S. Ambassador in Colombia who helped broker a deal for the mediation and our international supporters for remaining vigilant during this process,” added Mr. Parra. “We ask for your continued support until we reach a settlement.”

The group of GM workers that formed ASOTRECOL went on strike after being fired from GM due to workplace injuries. Their disabling injuries left them unemployable and unable to support their families. GM has refused to compensate them for these disabilities or provide them with access to medical care. On August 1st, they began a hunger strike that was suspended when an agreement was reached to begin mediation. Today the workers indicated that they will be re-starting their hunger strike.

“Our lives have been left in ruins by GM. We were fired due to work-place injuries and offered no severance, no worker’s compensation insurance and the company lied about the reason for our dismissal,” indicated Mr. Parra. “Since this sixth attempt at mediation with GM Colmotores has ended without a settlement, we are left with no recourse except to sew our mouths shut and re-start our hunger strike today.”

Rights groups across the United States responded with disappointment that the mediation failed, call on GM to immediately re-start settlement talks with the workers and indicate that they will be supporting the workers with a U.S. hunger strike, protests and a letter-writing campaign targeting GM.

“General Motors is a global company, but that should be no reason to treat workers in the developing world any differently than workers in Michigan, Ohio or anywhere else in the United States,” said Jess Hunter-Bowman, Associate Director of Witness for Peace. “GM must be held accountable for their serious labor violations in Colombia and that is exactly what we plan to do.”

“Our 20,000 supporters, U.S. workers, members of the faith community, members of Congress and other public figures have been watching the developments in this case very closely and are deeply concerned about the situation of the ASOTRECOL workers,” added Mr. Hunter-Bowman. “They intend to do everything in their power to ensure these workers receive a just settlement.”

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