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Activists protest Drummond Co.'s employment practices, protection of union workers

by Roy L. WilliamsThe Birmingham News
November 21st, 2008

A group of Colombian union workers and peace activists on Thursday afternoon staged a protest in Linn Park against Drummond Co., accusing the Birmingham-based company of human rights violations and failure to protect union workers.

Drummond is a major supplier of coal, much of it from one of the world's largest open-pit mines, in La Loma, Colombia. The hour-long rally attracted about 50 people.

Two union leaders from Colombia - Estevinson Avila and Jesus Brochero - accused Drummond of operating unsafe equipment they say has caused dozens of workers to be injured on the job.

Avila also said the company failed to protect three union employees in Colombia, who he says in 2001 were dragged by paramilitary forces off company buses taking them home from work and murdered.

Drummond issued a statement denying the charges, saying the company "continues to take great pride in the significant economic contribution our mining operations make in Colombia."

"Drummond takes very seriously the well-being of our workers and goes to great lengths in our Colombian operations to provide a safe and secure working environment," the statement said.

Drummond also took issue with allegations that the company was responsible for the injury or deaths of any of its Colombian workers, adding the charges were found to be baseless in a U.S. federal court.

"The charges today have been made by organizations such as Witness for Peace and School of the Americas Watch who have no credibility whatever and whose motives are to create social unrest," Drummond said.

E-mail: rwilliams@bhamnews.com

Birmingham News

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