ITF activists protesting in Bogotá, Colombia earlier this month faced tear gas and rubber bullets as they fought to improve working conditions.
One member of the Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores del Transporte (SNTT) was injured along with other protestors outside the offices of bus rapid transit (BRT) company Transmilenio. Transmilenio has oversight of the BRT but outsources routes to nine operators, who are able to set standards independently.
Workers were protesting against alleged labour rights abuses at the employer. According to the union, five thousand drivers work twelve-hour days without overtime payment or basic benefits.
The protest was organised when one of the BRT operators fired four SNTT members for their union activities. The union demands the reinstatement of these workers, and that workers’ rights throughout the company be respected. SNTT has also called for intervention and support for two BRT operators who were put out of business by Transmilenio. Finally, the union is calling for improved security, efficiency and punctuality across the system, as well as a police apology for the violence meted out against protestors.
ITF Americas regional secretary Antonio Rodríguez Fritz said: “BRT is key to improving public transport in Latin America. But it must not be used as an excuse to reduce labour rights or break the law. Transmilenio is responsible for managing the transport system, and it must ensure its operators obey safety and labour standards. Now is the time for Transmilenio to obey and enforce the law, to negotiate with SNTT, and to sign an agreement which is fair for workers and passengers alike.”