Colombian GM workers sew mouths shut in hunger strike

Seeking compensation in year-long protest against automaker
||Last Updated: 08/16/2012

Several former General Motors workers in Colombia claim they were fired after sustaining workplace injuries at the automaker’s Colmotores factory in Bogota and are seeking compensation.

The men have been protesting for more than a year outside the United States embassy in Colombia to no avail, and have since taken more drastic measures in order to emphasize their plight. Four of the men sewed their mouths shut on Aug. 1, followed by three more men the following week. They say more men will do the same every week until their complaints are addressed.

Jorge Parra, one of the men involved in the protest, told the Toronto Star nine years of metal work for GM has left him with herniated discs, carpal tunnel syndrome, and torn muscles in his spine. The Association of Injured Workers and Ex-Workers of Colmotores (Asotrecol), spearheaded by Parra, claims GM erased medical records and failed to grant compensation to injured employees. GM has denied the claims.

Asotrecol says that instead of providing medical care or alternative work to employees who have been injured, GM fires them.

The ex-workers say it’s extremely difficult to find work in Colombia as a disabled person and have demanded GM cover their medical costs and reintegrate them back into the workplace.

GM told the Star it “has addressed each of the cases of the group of protesters and has proactively and transparently participated in various dialogues with former employees and the relevant authorities.”

The company added that of the ex-workers who have filed claims against it, 95 per cent of cases have been resolved in GM’s favour. Asotrecol has blamed the Colombian government and GM’s “corruption.”

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