PASO Accompanies Domestic Workers in Bogota

For the past six months, PASO’s campaign with Bogota-based domestic workers has combined legal counseling, grassroots education, leadership development, and coalition-building to build a foundation that can support farther-reaching activities as we move forward.

We have learned a great deal about the day-to-day realities in the care sector and domestic employment. Workplace and sexual harassment, labor law violations, and domestic violence are common problems in the lives of this majority female workforce. Many of these women are victims of the armed conflict, heads-of-households, migrants, or have been internally displaced. They tend to come from Afro-Colombian, mestiza, indigenous, or rural agricultural backgrounds and have learned the skills necessary for this type of employment due to cultural norms, according to which woman have traditionally worked at home. In this context, professional activities carried out  in the sector of domestic care  are often not thought of as employment, or even work.

PASO provides legal advice regarding work-related issues for domestic employees in their homes or close to their worksites, which often includes helping employees calculate unpaid legal benefits in this almost entirely informal sector of the economy. We also help them think through the pros and cons of confronting their employers, when their legal rights are being denied, depending on their comfort level and the likelihood of retaliatory measures such as job termination. Lastly, we provide psychological counselling, when this service is requested.

PASO has also held six workshops in domestic workers’ neighborhoods, on Sundays, which is often the only day when they have time off. During these sessions, participants learn about their rights as employees, women, and Colombian citizens but also exchange ideas about the importance of domestic work to the Colombian/world economy, discuss personal experiences, and provide insight as to possible policies that could be introduced in the future to improve the lives of the sector’s workers. In the process, common problems are identified, friendships are borne, and informal support networks are created. Just as importantly, new leadership emerges, and participants begin to develop individual and collective identity with regards to their rights, and the crucial role they play in society.

Meanwhile, PASO has developed relationships and established common agendas with other groups and institutions active in this sector including unions, NGOs, universities, policy makers, and the Labor Ministry. We will continue to work in coalition with these actors to advocate for improved public policy, provide oversight, and promote public awareness with regards to the importance of domestic work, women in the workplace, and protections for domestic workers’ rights.

This exciting new campaign is just getting started. PASO looks forward to meeting the daunting challenges in the domestic care sector through creativity, dedication, and strategic planning. Stay tuned! You can get involved by contacting our lead organizer Paola Moreno at (COL/Whatsapp) 3184285314, or organizador2.paso@gmail.com.

PASO Launches Alliance with Domestic Workers

We have embarked on a new campaign to support domestic workers and draw attention to the importance of the care-based economy in Colombia!

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Colombia’s Labor Ministry has indicated that nearly 700,000 people are employed as domestic workers in the country, 95% of whom are women. According to figures from the National Department of Statistics, employment in the domestic sector experienced one of the highest levels of growth in 2017.

PASO’s activities will look to raise awareness about the importance of the care economy, defend the rights of the sector’s workers, and educate employers as to their legal responsibilities. In the medium/long term, we will promote the conformation of an organization, or coalition, of domestic workers with democratic representation and financial self-sufficiency.

Taking steps towards the establishment of such a coalition will require coordinating actions among diverse organizations, institutions, universities and groups of domestic employees to establish common agendas and empower women by working to build a broad-based movement.

In 2018 we will carry out activities in various neighborhoods throughout Bogota to provide training and legal counselling related to labor law, social benefits, leadership development, and computer literacy. To the extent possible, psychological support will also be provided when required.

By building networks and expanding grassroots participation in project activities, we hope to position a more realistic discussion about domestic work in Colombia’s public discourse. In this way, we can look to impact future policy and push for cultural changes needed to generate appreciation and recognition for domestic work, and the women who perform it.

For more info contact Project Coordinator Paola Moreno at (Col) 3184285314 or organizador2.paso@gmail.com.

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PASO’s New Campaign with Homecenter Employees

PASO has launched a new campaign in coalition with Sintrasodimac, a young, up-and coming union that represents employees at Homecenter, a retail giant in Colombia. Our staff will help research labor conditions at various stores and distribution centers, develop communications strategies, and conduct advocacy work in Colombia and internationally.

PASO will provide comprehensive accompaniment for Sintrasodimac, whose long-term goals include growth, the achievement of improved labor conditions through collective bargaining, and the construction of a revived, more powerful, and more democratic labor movement in Colombia.

Homecenter is operated by a business partnership set up between Chilean multinational Falabella (49%) and Corona, a Colombia-based company (51%). Outside of Colombia, Falabella is active in Chile, Peru, Argentina, Uruguay, and Brazil. According to its website, the group “is one of the largest in Latin America. Its commercial activities are developed in various areas, principally department stores, shopping centers, home improvement warehouses, the commercial finance company CMR, a bank, and Falabella insurance. Today, these businesses make up South America’s most important chain” (translation ours). Corona is a Colombian company that makes and sells construction and home improvement products and has, according to its website, “19 manufacturing plants in Colombia, three in the US, three in Mexico and one in Brazil… generating more than 14,000 jobs” (translation ours).

PASO’s International Solidarity Work

Last year more than 1,000 new members joined the unions PASO accompanies!

We protect Colombian activists and empower organizers across international borders as agents of change in the struggle for justice in  the workplace, environmental protection and lasting social equality through physical accompaniment, grassroots education, organizing,  research and advocacy.

Bristol Denies Workers’ Right to Unionize

The company Enertem SAS, known by its employees in Puerto Gaitan as Bristol, oversees electrical supplies needed to extract oil from Rubiales, Colombia’s largest petroleum reserve. However, the company refused to recognize the union membership of approximately 40 workers this year, alleging their activities are not specific to the oil industry.

Colombia’s industrial petroleum sector union USO filed a grievance with the Labor Ministry in April but has yet to receive any type of response.

In addition, Enertem/Bristol has pressured employees to distance themselves from USO, in what would seem to be a clear violation of workers’ freedom of association.

PASO, USO and their international partners UNITE, UNISON, and the United Steelworkers will continue to monitor this situation closely and work with the appropriate authorities to remedy any illegal behavior or violations of labor rights on the part of subcontracting companies in Colombia’s oil sector.