In a wide-ranging speech at the UNI Americas Conference, General Secretary of UNI Global Union Philip Jennings paid tribute to the bravery of the Colombian people in their efforts to build a new Colombia.
“We are here in a new Colombia. This week, the whole world will celebrate the recognition of the Colombian people as the winners of the Nobel Peace Prize Winners,” declared Jennings. “We will celebrate the award but also honour the sacrifice of those who have suffered the effects of a war that has spanned 5 decades.”
“We recognize, with immense pain and sadness, over 3,000 trade unionists who have lost their lives defending the rights of working people in Colombia. Our thoughts are with the families who have lost their loved ones – to those who will never know their fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters.”
“We have great expectations for a new chapter in Colombia based on peace, not on hate. For a Colombia free from war and free from fear. Our message to the government and for employers is that the war on workers must end.”
“Businesses must respect trade union freedom, workers’ rights to collective bargaining and build workplaces free from fear.”
Jennings applauded the pivotal role that female trade unionists had played in the recent surge in trade union growth in Colombia and in the peace process.
“Our work is not over – we are only beginning. As Nelson Mandela said, ‘After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.’ We will continue to break through and organise in the Americas.”
“We are in a special period in this region’s history. From Donald Trump in the United States to the elites in Brazil, we will stand up for working people against the elites. We will never give up – international cooperation, unity and cooperation has never been more important.”
Jennings also paid tribute to the Chapecoense football team who tragically lost their lives in the LaMia Flight 2933 plane crash in Medellin in November.
“We mourn this tragic loss and we thank Atletico Nacional de Medellin for their nomination of Chapecoense as champions of the Copa Sudamericana,” said Jennings. “I suggest we nominate them as the champions of the Club World Cup.”
In conclusion, Jennings commended the work of Adriana Rosenzvaig in building UNI Americas, saying, “For Adriana and I, this is a special moment in our lives. This will be our last UNI Americas Conference. However, we must not cry because it’s over, we must smile because it happened. We can feel proud that we were able to build the best global union in the Americas and in the world.”