By Ed Maltby
Yesterday I attended a protest outside the St James Square offices of BP, in solidarity with workers at the Tauramena plant in the Casanare region of Colombia, who are attempting to organise into the USO union. The Casanare region has suffered from BP oil exploration and extraction over the last twenty years. Environmentally – groundwater has been polluted and rivers diverted by the extraction operation run by BP – and in human lives: in a region with 300,000 inhabitants, nine thousand have been murdered or disappeared by BP-paid paramilitaries and anti-union thugs as part of BP’s war against local communities and the USO union.
Following a month-long strike in January, BP made certain weakly-worded offers to the union – to negotiate on demands from workers and the community on five themes: environment, human rights, social investment, labour and the supply of goods and services. But since then, BP has repeatedly reneged on its limited agreements to negotiate. In response, construction workers at the Tauramena plant have occupied the facility. At the time of writing, this occupation has lasted for 21 days.
For networks like Workers’ Climate Action, which see mass struggle by workers and their allies as the means by which we can put industries under democratic control with a view to protecting the environment, the movement of workers and local communities in Casanare is of key importance. We should support their fight for a union and for control over the activities of big oil in their region – as a step towards winning fuller democratic control over the energy sector. We should approach other energy workers around the world and help organise solidarity between them and the Casanare workers.
The picket outside the BP offices was small but good – it was attended by representatives from a number of Colombian workers’ associations, activists from climate camp, Colombia Solidarity campaigners. The suggestion was made that the picket of BP offices should be made weekly at least for the duration of the occupation in Casanare.