Since July 23, workers have been on strike at Colombia's private railway company FENOCO, demanding better salaries, improved work conditions, and more social investments in areas of coal production. FENOCO trains transport about 160,000 metric/tons daily of thermal coal produced by the U.S.-based Drummond Company—the second largest coal producer in Colombia—and from other smaller companies, such as Carbones del Cerrejón, a 10-year-old joint venture between Glencore International, BHP Billiton, and Anglo American, located in the department of the La Guajira.
Drummond is threatening to shed 4000 employees if the strike is not resolved soon. Since the beginning of the strike, Drummund has been unable to ship its daily production of between 80,000 and 85,000 metric tons of coal in the Atlantic port town of Santa Marta and Ciénaga. Consequently, jobs may be lost. FENOCO is part owned by Drummund, Prodeco, Vale, and Colombian Natural Resources (CNR), a subsidiary of Goldman Sachs.
As of this writing there is no sign that the management of FENOCO accepted the demands of its 400 workers. This may have serious implications on coal supply and prices in international markets, considering that Colombia is the world’s fourth largest coal exporters.
* A court in Bogota declared illegal the strike today Wednesday August 15 which could allow Fenoco to fire workers.
Sintraime, the workers union, declared that it will appeal the court's decision. The struggle continues.
Nazih Richani is the Director of Latin American studies at Kean University. He blogs at nacla.org/blog/cuadernos-colombianos.