Organising contract workers in the Colombian mining sector

Cotton, Elizabeth and Royle, Tony (2012) Organising contract workers in the Colombian mining sector. Environment and Planning A . ISSN 0308-518X (In Press)

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Abstract

The article examines the recent attempts to organise contract workers in the Carbones del Cerrejón coal mine in the northern coastal region of La Guajira, Colombia, by the national union Sintracarbon in collaboration with the Global Union Federation, the International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers’ Unions (ICEM). Using theory on union renewal, and Wever’s concept of “field-enlarging strategies” in relation to organizing contingent workers we attempt to understand how these organising successes could be achieved within this hostile organizing climate. In our analysis we offer a further factor to organizing contract workers, that of international linkage which has facilitated exchange of experience and strategies, and technical knowledge as well as help to build social and political capital in relationship to multinational employers and the state. Using Weyland’s argument about the link between profound institutional change and the international diffusion of ideas, we argue that the recent organising successes of Sintracarbon were in part due to their position within the international trade union movement increasing both supply and demand for strategies and actions to organise contract workers. In addition, the extensive and long term use of project activity and participatory education methods has provided a successful way in which functioning partnerships could be formed with employers, the state and the contract workers themselves. We argue that the articulation between local and international trade union structures, understood as a relationship based on the principle of subsidiarity, has been an essential basis for this new wave of organising in Colombia resulting in the reinstatement of collective bargaining, the establishment of state inspection systems to monitor the practices of contractors and the establishment of new unions and membership in six contracting companies in the Cerrejón mine.

Item Type:Article
Keywords (uncontrolled):Colombia, mining sector, AngloAmerican, BHP Billiton, Xstrata, Global Union Federation, Sintracarbon, Contract work, organising, education
Research Areas:Middlesex University Schools and Centres > Business School > Leadership, Work and Organisations
Middlesex University Schools and Centres > Business School > Leadership, Work and Organisations > Employment Relations group
ID Code:8817
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Deposited On:27 Mar 2012 14:37
Last Modified:10 Oct 2014 11:10

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