Brinks has been firing union leaders during the COVID health emergency in Colombia. On May 15 Brinks Colombia opened legal proceedings to terminate national union president Frank Gualdron, citing as their justification that he had posted images of a work-related protest on Facebook. Gualdron is among eight union officers who have been notified of their termination since Colombia declared a COVID health emergency in March, following six others in preceding months. Meanwhile, 14 union members – who lacked officers’ protections – have been fired outright, and 80 others have been singled out through ‘disciplinary procedures’, laying the groundwork for future termination.
Several union leaders from SINTRABRINKS, which represents workers at Brinks’ cash-in-transit operations in Colombia, have also received a series of death threats from a well-known right-wing paramilitarily group – “Águilas Negras”. On April 20, the president of the Bogota local union, Romer Diaz, received a WhatsApp message threatening his family and those of four of his fellow union officers – Rigoberto Bello, Javier Vega, Ronis Atencia, and Jose Claros. A previous message in October 2019 had warned the unionists to “be careful with their lives and lives of their families” and that “next time the threat will be hard-hitting and real.” This situation is especially alarming given the increased violence targeting activists in Colombia. According to NGO Fundación Ideas para la Paz, 49 social justice activists were murdered between January and April 2020, including trade unionists.
Marcio Monzane, Regional Secretary of UNI Americas, stated: “Last year we held a meeting with the company in which it expressed its willingness to reach agreements that strengthen social dialogue with the union. However, we consider that these issues raised by our affiliate – layoffs, legal processes and the refusal of the company to resolve the conflict – break with the initial spirit of dialogue. We hope that Brinks Colombia reconsiders these actions, returns to the path set forth previously, and publicly rejects the death threats against union leaders who are the ones who work for the company and who it should protect” .
The union recently won compliance with legal standards regarding overtime pay, leading to a surge in membership. It advocates for higher emissions standards for the company’s aging vehicles and equal pay for female employees.
Eduard Stam, UNI Property Services Global Director, added: “It is time for this global giant to get its priorities right. If they want to play top league, top league standards should be implemented through every vain of the organization. Any form of workplace harassment should be addressed adequately”.