Date: 20 October 2016
Venue: Barbara Strang Teaching Centre, Newcastle University
Earlier this month Colombians voted against a peace agreement between the government and FARC guerrillas, leaving the peace process in limbo and sending the country into a political crisis.
UNISON Northern have a long history of working with our comrades in the indigenous communities in Colombia and have organised this event.
Speakers include Berenice Celeita, Director of human rights organisation Nomadesc along with Clare Williams UNISON Regional Secretary. Come along and hear directly from Berenice who has dedicated her life to working with those people most affected by the Colombian armed and social conflict.
Northumbria University Access To Justice Society and The Colombia Caravana UK Lawyers’ Group
Date: Wednesday 17 February
Time: 18:00 – 19:30
Venue: Northumbria University, Law School Room Cce1-003
Booking: To reserve a place, please RSVP to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Colombian human rights defender Berenice Celeita was kept under surveillance by unidentified individuals after returning from a visit to the USA and Canada to expose human rights violations in Colombia.
From the evening of 20 June until the early hours of 21 June, a vehicle was parked outside of her home. From her window she saw that the two occupants sitting at the front of the vehicle were taking photographs of her house and she saw a camera flash firing. In the past, human rights defenders who have been under surveillance, including by the security forces, have subsequently been physically attacked. NOMADESC has been the repeated target of death threats in recent years.
The Northern Region have strong links with NOMADESC, with Berenice taking part in delegations to Newcastle together with joint work on practical solidarity projects over a number of years.
Please take action by visiting the following link: http://www.codev.org/our-work/urgent-actions/urgent-action-june-2015/
Hasan Dodwell from Justice for Colombia gave an overview of the current political situation relating to the peace process and inequality in the country.
The Region has received an update on the situation in the large Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk, Syria, which has been destroyed under siege since July 2013.
There are around 40 children that are originally from Yarmouk camp who left some months ago to apply for their exams and were subsequently blocked re-entry and separated from their families. Their families are also trapped in the camp and are already in a very harsh situation so they cannot support them financially. An orphan house is providing them with place to sleep and food for three days in the week, but for the other days they are not covered and are without heating oil or support to continue their studies.
Back at a joint international seminar in October 2014, UNISON Northern, North West and Scotland agreed to be advocates for the camp until a specific request was received from the Jafra Foundation, and following agreement at Regional Committee the Region have responded with a donation for humanitarian assistance.
Date: 11 May 2015
Time: 17.30 - 18.30
Venue: Daysh Building, Newcastle University Doctoral Training Suite, 5th Floor
Booking: Pease RSVP to secure your place at this exciting event: email@example.com
Chaired by: David Gray Newcastle-‐based solicitor and member of the Caravana
Speakers: Angela Uribe de Kellett, Lisa McGrady and Joanne Hutchinson
A lively discussion of first-hand experiences and legal opinion to launch the Colombian Caravana delegation report.
There will be a wine reception afterwards!
Colombia continues to be the most dangerous place in the world to be a trade unionist or social movement leader. In the first 6 months of 2013, 37 human rights defenders were assassinated in Colombia - the highest 6-month toll for a decade.
This is one of the priority areas for the region and we are engaged in a number of projects in the South West Valle del Cauca department. In particular, the capacity building project with the Women’s Sugar Cane Committee, and a Communications Project with SINTRAUNICOL, NOMADESC and other social movements.
On Saturday 25th October Amnesty International’s Newcastle branch is organising a Colombia Day at The Brunswick Methodist Hall, 10-4pm. All are welcome to come for some or all of the day.
This event will focus particularly on the Peace Community of San Jose de Apartado, and on human rights in Colombia generally, but will be combined with contributions highlighting Colombian culture and history. Conor McArdle (Newcastle Branch International Officer ) will be one of the guest speakers to discuss our region’s solidarity work within the south west of Colombia.
A report summary of August’s delegation to the South West department of Colombia was included in the last issue of Branch Outlines. A full report has been presented to Regional Committee and a copy submitted for our branch website.
On the 26th October Clare Williams (UNSON Regional Convenor) and Conor McCardle (Newcastle Branch International Officer) attended a UNISON-sponsored Amnesty International Event at Brunswick Methodist Church in order to talk about the Region’s project work with various Colombian women’s groups.
JUSTICE FOR COLOMBIA
First of all a big thank you for signing the Free Huber petition. We have almost 2,500 signatures so far! Huber has written to us asking us to thank you all for your support. So thank you! We know it will be difficult but your solidarity is fundamental in pushing for his release. We can already be assured that the Colombian government is fully aware of the international outrage at Huber’s arrest.
We have some great news in terms of the campaign: Due to the success so far, Labourstart, the international trade union website and campaigning platform, has expressed an interest in promoting the petition. As from today there will be a Labourstart petition circulating the web and we at Justice for Colombia, forming part of an international campaign together with Colombian organisations, will now be focusing on pushing the Labourstart petition. No signature will be lost as all the signatures from both petitions will be added together for the final hand in.
Please help to continue spread the word and get more signatures by promoting the Labourstart petition – it can be found here:
For a video message from Huber from his prison cell, see here:
For his thank you letter, see here:
Thanks for your support!
International solidarity is a key component of UNISON’s work. In a globalised world of multinational employers, the struggle for workers’ rights goes beyond a country’s borders. In Colombia, the active encouragement of multi-national corporate investment has resulted in many UK based firms pushing through reforms such as the deregulation of labour rights and environmental protections.
We also regularly hear that Colombia is the most dangerous place to be a trade unionist, and the situation does not show any signs of improving. In 2001, 90% of all trade unionists killed worldwide were Colombian, and this time last year, 225 trade unionists were murdered for campaigning for their members’ rights and social justice.
Our region has a long history of supporting project work in the South West Region (Cauca Valle), including a women’s capacity building project with the sugar cane communities (Corteros); developing communication capacity with SINTRAUNICOL (an education union), and social organisations; supporting an annual Women’s Assembly in Cali; and working with Human Rights NGOs such as NOMADESC.
The purpose of August’s delegation was to see, first hand, how this project work is being carried out, and to discuss future work with these groups. Previous delegations have facilitated the projects which are currently being implemented.
For me personally, the biggest impact was being able to hear from Colombians how our region’s practical solidarity was having a positive impact on their ability to challenge and draw attention to human rights abuses in their country. Many of the people I met had received death threats for the campaigning work that they do. Yet despite their situation they remain passionate advocates of the struggle for human rights and trade union recognition.
That is why our continued support in this area is a vital part of our international activity, both in our branch and the Northern Region.
According to the United Nations, since 1986 almost 3,000 trade unionists have been murdered in Colombia making this one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a trade unionist. The constant and brutal attacks on trade unionists have resulted in a huge drop in trade union membership; down from 20% in 1985 to only 4% today. This is a clear consequence of the ongoing attrition against those who seek to exercise their rights to join a union and campaign for better pay and conditions.
Following on from the arrest of Huber Ballesteros (see below), UNISON met with one of his lawyers to get an update on the case. In the meantime, Justice for Colombia, to which UNISON is affiliated, is calling for people in this country to sign the urgent action calling for Huber's release. Please sign and share with your colleagues and friends.
At 15.30 on Sunday 25 August the Colombian trade union leader Huber Ballesteros was arrested in Colombia. Huber was an official TUC guest for the upcoming TUC conference. A JFC led delegation of trade unionists and politicians from Britain, Ireland, Canada and the US had just met with him in Colombia in late July.
Huber will now be unable to travel to England as he is currently locked away in a prison cell in the Colombian capital. He is facing the outrageous charges of ‘rebellion’ and ‘financing terrorism’. JFC is campaigning for his immediate release. Please support our campaign by signing the petition here. And please share the petition with all your contacts.
Our fringe event at the TUC Conference in Bournemouth will be dedicated to Huber and there will be an update on the current peace talks. The JFC fringe is on Tuesday 10 September at 12.45 in Tregonwell Hall 1. For more information see here and please forward on to your contacts.
The arrest of Huber has been denounced internationally. The ITUC and the ETUC have made public statements calling for his release. MPs raised it as an emergency point of order in parliament. An article was also published in the Guardian.
Huber Ballesteros is a close partner of Justice for Colombia and an executive committee member of Colombia's largest trade union federation, CUT. He has been involved in organising national industrial action which has been taking place across the country for over two weeks. Strikers and protesters have been violently attacked by the police, and the Army have been sent onto the streets across the country. Nine people have been killed and 800 injured since the strikes began on August 19. President Santos publicly attacked the Patriotic March for their involvement in the strikes. As yet, the government has not negotiated with the majority of the strikers.
The timing of Huber’s arrest is a clear attempt to punish Huber for his trade union work. It is systematic of the continuing policy of the Colombian government to use the legal system to criminalise protest and silence political opponents.
With your continued support, Justice for Colombia will be campaigning relentlessly for Huber's release. And for the release of all Colombia's political prisoners.
Source: Justice for Colombia
On 11 July 2013, Juan Carlos Galvis, a trade union leader in the Magdalena Medio region and member of the National Victims’ Movement, which works closely with Justice for Colombia, received an envelope which contained photos of his children and a letter threatening him with death.
“You’ll be our first target” the threat stated.
The letter also directed a threat against the LGBT community who in previous days had carried out a march in the city of Barrancabermeja.
The leaflet was signed by a paramilitary group calling themselves the ‘Anti-restitution Army of Magdalena Medio’. It promised to target attacks against the gay community, trade unionists and human rights defenders.
Over the course of the year threats and attacks have been repeatedly denounced by local organisations operating in the region. The paramilitaries call the region the ‘second anti-subversive capital’ of Colombia, referring to the amount of control which the paramilitary groups enjoy.
In February, four female human rights defenders received a death threat, a victims leader was kidnapped and another human rights defender was sent a bullet with a message telling her she had twelve hours to live. A number of attacks and threats have also been carried out against the USO oil workers union – Barrancabermeja, the largest city in the area, has a large oil industry.
The organisations are calling on the authorities to investigate fully all these attacks and to ensure the definitive break-up of the paramilitary groups that continue to act with complete impunity.
Source: Justice for Colombia
Alfamir Castillos, President of the Women Sugar Cane Cutters Committee, visited the Northern Region in March. She spoke at a number of meetings, including one in our branch, and outlined the poverty sugar cane workers face in Colombia. Alfamir also spoke of her personal struggle regarding the murder of her son, and the continued threat she faces trying to seek justice.
TUC Regional Conference passed a motion in April to support the campaign to protect the lives of Alfamir Castillo and her family. As a consequence, and thanks to Unison and War on Want’s efforts, Alfamir has been moved to a place of safety. However, Alfamir’s situation is becoming increasingly more desperate with further threats on her life.
Please take a minute to fill in the online form to send an email to the Colombian government demanding her protection:
Alfamir Castillos, President of the Women Sugar Cane Cutters Committee, visited the Northern Region last week. She spoke at a number of meetings, including one in our branch, and outlined the poverty sugar cane workers face in Colombia.
Alfamir also spoke of her personal struggle regarding the murder of her son, and the continued threat she faces trying to seek justice. The link attached highlights her campaign and how you can help.
Please take urgent action today to help protect Alfamir’s life by writing to the British and Colombian Embassies. Please encourage members within your work place to take part in the action by following the link to see how they can be involved and help in the campaign.
Video: Alfamir's son was murdered by the Colombian army, and now she and her family are facing death threats and persecution. In this short video, she talks about her son's murder and the situation she is facing.
In September 2011 Conor McArdle accompanied the Colombian Solidarity Campaign (CSC) on their annual delegation to Colombia as a representative of our branch’s young members. Our region in particular has a long standing relationship with both the CSC and Justice for Colombia and supports their work of opposing human rights abuses against civilians and trade union leaders.
Conor presented a summary of his report to the branch committee and you can read a full and comprehensive account of his experience here
Justice for Colombia (JFC) is a British NGO that campaigns for human rights, workers' rights and the search for peace with social justice in Colombia.
Established in 2002 by the British trade union movement, JFC was created in response to the appalling human rights crisis in Colombia, and particularly the abuses committed against trade unionists and other civil society actors. Though our core backing continues to come predominantly from the trade unions, JFC’s support base has expanded to include the legal profession, the student movement and numerous politicians, journalists and academics and we now also have a chapter in the Republic of Ireland – JFC Ireland – and supporters in several other European countries.
We are very happy to begin this e-bulletin with some great news – two of the political prisoners we have been campaigning on have been released and a third is expected to be freed soon. On May 16th trade unionist Aracely Cañaveral Velez was released after no evidence was provided against her.
FENSUAGRO trade union activist, Rosalba Gaviria, was also declared innocent and released on 3rd June after spending 27 months unjustly imprisoned. Both prisoners and unions have sent messages of thanks to JFC and all our supporters – showing that the campaign can really make a difference.
On Friday 3rd June, imprisoned academic Dr Miguel Angel Beltran was declared innocent of all charges, after being imprisoned since May 2009. In early May over 4000 UK academics signed a UCU-coordinated letter to President Santos demanding his release. It is thought the verdict relates to the Colombian Supreme Court decision that evidence from the notorious FARC computers is illegal. We expect Dr Beltran to be released in the coming days.
JFC and Jorge Gamboa of the CUT recently returned from a successful trip to the ETUC Congress in Athens. Jorge met new ETUC General Secretary Bernadette Segol, as well as trade union leaders from across Europe as part of JFC’s campaign to block the EU-Colombia FTA. The final Congress document, the Athens Manifesto, reiterated its opposition to the FTA.
Unfortunately the murder of our colleagues in Colombia has continued unabated with 11 trade unionists assassinated so far this year, despite claims by the Santos regime that things are improving. The two most recent killings on May 26th and 27th were of teacher trade unionists.
April and May also saw the largest popular mobilisations of recent years, in protest at the Santos administration’s education and economic plans. Up to a million Colombians braved the repression to express their opposition to the policies.
Thanks for your support – it is only with your help that we can continue to show much needed solidarity with our colleagues in Colombia.
Best wishes from Justice for Colombia.
Civil society organisations in Colombia have reported the disappearance of Sandra Viviana Cuellar Gallego, in Cali on February 17. Friends of the Earth International and Censat Agua Viva / Friends of the Earth Colombia need your help to pressure the Colombian authorities to step up the search for her.
A report by human rights groups on published on 4 November 2010 states that at least 22 activists were murdered in the first 75 days of the government of Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, according to press agency EFE.
New courses for members and stewards.
Inflation leaps to 3.2%
More regulation of gig economy needed
Appalling risk of suicides in construction
Fat cats — the great pay divide
Racist abuse after Brexit vote
Lack of diversity at top in Wales
Papers for the meeting on Monday 3 April.
Meeting on Tuesday 28 March 2017 at 4.30pm.
Nottinghamshire Police have taken the bold step to identify misogyny as a hate crime and Northern UNSION are keen for this to be replicated in our region. The aim of the event is to identify how we can move the issue forward across the region with all three Police and Crime Commissioners.
Swings and scooters of inflation basket
No real improvement in weekly earnings
Cosmetic improvement with Living Wage
Zero-hours contracts at record high
Unemployment falls below 1.6 million
Agenda and annual report.
Economic forecasts in Hammond's Budget
Mixed fortunes in ethnic women's pay gap data
Company merger and acquisitions in 2016
Numbers on zero-hours contracts at a high
GMB take on DX delivery firm
Former chancellor's nice big earner
Charter to stop violence at work
Saturday 25 March. Hear grassroots, union and guest speakers and watch the Reel News film showing the Durham Teaching Assistants’ story.
Saturday 25 March, to plan UNISON LGBT activities for the year ahead.
A joint training session for trade union and community activists on how to organise to defeat the politics of division. 18 March 2017.
March calendar of events and activities.
Trade Union Act regs come into force
Gender pension gap leaves women short
Violence at work — the nasty truth
Bookseller's £7m salary
Money purchase pension are norm
British Gas denied appeal in Lock case
Government fails in ethnicity review
Papers for the meeting on Monday 6 March.
Papers for the retired members' meeting on 17 March.
Winners in February.
Morning seminar and afternoon remembrance service in Hartlepool on Friday 28 April 2017. There is also an Eve of WMD ‘Gig’ on Thursday 27 April.
Government green paper on pensions
A 'Stern diet' for fat cat directors' pay
Employers — don't miss out on talent
Argos repays £2.4 million to 37,000 staff
Economic growth revised upwards
Work fears of disabled people revealed
Migrants have helped make Britain. It’s time to celebrate us
NHS at breaking point, according to British Medical Association
Councils prepare to cut essential services to fund adult social care
London transport spending equivalent to £1,500 more per head than North East
Minimum wage cheats named and shamed
Inflation hits three-year high
Unemployment at 11-year low
Inflation erodes growth in weekly earnings
Migrants are always the scapegoats. But now they’re taking on Ukip’s lies
I, Daniel Blake is a realistic depiction of life on benefits. Isn’t it?
English social care system for elderly facing 'complete collapse'
North East peers want law to make Government investigate impact of Brexit on region
North East recruitment drive revealed as jobless total in region rises
UK employment growth driven by foreign nationals, figures show
The NHS needs a rethink. Its priorities no longer make sense
Top Labour politicians come to 'UKIP area' Sunderland for Brexit debates and festival
Rothbury Community Hospital inpatient ward closure public meeting this week
Shopping will cost you more as prices rise, but is Brexit to blame?
Campaigners calling for u-turn over Post Office move
UK labour shortages reported as EU worker numbers fall
Britons living in the EU face Brexit backlash, leaked paper warns
Then the Daily Mail came for Gary Lineker, and we said: ‘Enough!’
Brexit survey revealed: What you would do if given second shot at EU referendum
Booming gig economy costs £4bn in lost tax and benefit payouts, says TUC
There will be a shameful betrayal of the Brexit low-paid
Welcome to the new dark ages, where only the wealthy can retire
NHS 'pays £7.5m a year for 20 most expensive agency doctors'
Drive to bring health and social care together is a well-intentioned mess
Sunderland, 19/20 May 2017.
Sign Language (BSL) Introduction, 2 March 2017
Dementia Workshop, 30 March 2017
Regional Education Calendar 2017
A&E in England had worst delays ever in January, leak suggests
Why was Newcastle Council leader Nick Forbes the star of Prime Minister's questions?
Number of patients stuck in hospital 'far higher than NHS data shows'
It's time corporate tax dodgers started losing lucrative council contracts
More council housing needed in the North East - government report reveals
Council tax, youth funding and bins: 6 things to look out for from Sunderland budget meeting
TyneMet and South Tyneside colleges merger: What it means for jobs, campuses and its new name?
Review of tribunal fees finally published
Plan to tackle abusive hiring practices
Insecure work on rise
Twenty eight directors share £68.37 million
A list of affiliations and donations that the branch committee has approved since January 2015.
UK faces return to inequality of Thatcher years, says report
NHS ID scheme could deter eligible patients, say MPs
Councils may cut social care provision due to underfunding, LGA says
Nursery schools: ‘What society gives children less chance than their parents?’
Council tax rise planned for Northumberland residents as authority faces £36m cuts
'Trump can't hack Trebs' - the best signs from Newcastle anti-Trump demonstration
Racism at work
Economy grows but there's a shortfall
Advice on gender pay gap from Acas
Tories offer no solution on discrimination
Eight assaults a day in Welsh schools
A quarterly periodical updating branch reps on employment law.
Winners in January.
Northern Region Young Members AGM
UNISON Northern Region Black Members Forum AGM 2017.
Discounted car insurance for UNISON members.
In Newcastle on Saturday 4 February.
Papers for the meeting on 6 February.
Death by a thousand fire service cuts
Guidance on stress
Modern-day slave traders jailed
Fees let bad bosses get off scot free
Top-ranked inclusive employers 2017
Get tough on pay, says pension funds
Agenda and nomination form for the mmeting on 4 February.
Annual Meeting of the Regional Disabled Members Self Organised Group on Tuesday 31 January 2017.
Mental Health Awareness Workshop on Thursday 16 February.
Wales to ditch parts of 2016 Trade Union Act
Inflation rates at highest since 2014
Retail inflation eating into earnings growth
UK unemployment at nine-year low
Public sector pay poised to fall by thousands in real terms, TUC says
May’s promise on workers’ rights is hollow if she doesn’t get a deal
NHS crisis: the one act of self-sacrifice that could rescue our health service
Politicians have ignored the working class for too long
World's eight richest people have same wealth as poorest 50%
Crisis, what NHS crisis? Theresa May must stop this denial
Welsh government tables bill to overturn Trade Union Act
UNISON have now been allocated two spots on the 16 January to have guided tours around the Anne Frank exhibition.
Courier's tribunal win against CitySprint
TUC warns over Brexit threat to workers' rights
Lame excuses for not paying minimum wage
High street store fined over safety
Manufacturing output edges higher
Child poverty briefing
Winners in December.
Consultation on political fund review: December-January
We are having our first Reading Ahead launch at Welford Learning Zone on 11 January between 10am and 11am.
Book now to secure your place on one of the courses for Reps at Newcastle College starting in January 2017.
UNISON courses in 2017. These courses are free and open to all members unless otherwise stated.
'Precarious pay penalty' of zero-hours staff
Plans for a Universal Basic Income
2017 — economic forecasts for year
'Fat Cat Wednesday' has been and gone
Northern Ireland to reveal political gifts
UK's deficit in trade in goods gets ever worse
UK economic growth revised upwards