Tales of a damp squib, a fool, and an inspirational woman, Rosalba Gaviria Toro

On Wednesday the 30th November all the work that our branch has been doing came together with fantastic turnouts reported across the trusts. And our members along with members of 19 trade unions let the government know just what they thought of the plan to make us Pay more, Work Longer, and Get less.

I attended the picket of GMPT HQ along with many other members and enjoyed the friendship and camaraderie there. It is also useful to note that the chief executive and directors of our trust came out to share their wishes with offers of tea and coffee. Whilst they were not on strike it was clear that their views, like ours, were a million miles away from that absolute fool, Jeremy Clarkson.

Clarkson appeared on the BBC and said “Frankly, I’d have them all shot. I would take them outside and execute them in front of their families. I mean, how dare they go on strike when they have these gilt-edged pensions that are going to be guaranteed while the rest of us have to work for a living?”

My first reaction to Clarkson’s comment were to dismiss them as ill informed, he is after all, an attention seeker who likes to make controversial statements.

However the real gravity of this silly mans statement were driven home to me on Friday when I was lucky enough to meet Rosalba Gaviria Toro. And learned that for some the possibility of being dragged out of your house and being shot is very real. Especially for Columbian trade unionists.

Rosalba, is a Colombian trade unionist and former political prisoner. She was held for over 27 months and was eventually declared innocent and released in June 2011. She has been a trade unionist and women’s rights activist for over 20 years and has suffered years of death threats due to her activities.

Colombia is the most dangerous place in the world to be a trade unionist. Every year numerous union leaders, union activists and union members are assassinated – simply because of their trade union activities. Over 2,500 unionists have been murdered in the past 20 years, more than in the rest of the world combined.

Most of the killings are carried out by rightwing paramilitary death squads that have documented links to the Colombian security forces. However, many are murdered by members of the Colombian Army and a few years ago information came to light showing how the Colombian secret police were drawing up ‘death lists’ of trade union members to be shot.

The Colombian regime does very little to bring the perpetrators of the anti-union violence in Colombia to justice. In fact, in over 98% of the cases in which a trade unionist is killed in Colombia, nobody is brought to justice. This impunity is a green light for the assassinations to continue as those responsible, whether they are soldiers, paramilitaries or anyone else, know that they can get away with it.

If I am called upon again to strike I will do so, but not only to remind this government what I think or their plan to make us Pay more, Work Longer, and get less. But also in respect for trade unionist in Columbia who live under the permanent threat of assassination for being nothing more than trade unionists.