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Colombian unions call national strike against Duque's attacks on pensions and workplace rights

COLOMBIAN trade unions joined students on a national demonstration today and announced a general strike against right-wing President Ivan Duque’s neoliberal labour and pension reforms.

The Unitary Central of Workers of Colombia (CUT) said a second day of action was planned for October 17, with further strikes set to take place on November 21.

It is calling for peace in the country, with Mr Duque’s administration responsible for a major increase in killings of former members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc).

At least 52 have been killed this year alone, jeopardising a fragile peace deal that has been consistently undermined by Mr Duque — who threatened to scrap it entirely during his 2018 election campaign.

Changes made earlier this year led some former Farc members, led by former commander Ivan Marquez, to announce a “new phase of armed struggle.”

“This is the continuation of the rebel fight in response to the state’s betrayal of the Havana peace accords,” Mr Marquez said in August.

“We will denounce the attacks on peace and human rights, especially the genocide against social movements,” the CUT declared ahead of the action.

Students took to the streets demanding the right to protest after a number of universities in the capital Bogota were attacked by state security forces last month.

The CUT joined today’s demonstration and warned Mr Duque that workers would not accept more of his neoliberal reforms and attacks on working conditions.

In a statement they said Mr Duque wants “to remedy with more of the same cuts in state expenditure on education and health … and impose new taxes on the people and continue in free trade treaties.”

His administration plans to impose a new raft of austerity measures and changes to labour law including the setting of hourly wages by region, which would end the right to national collective bargaining.

Mr Duque wants to end overtime payments along with weekend and holiday pay and to scrap redundancy compensation packages.

They also warned that Mr Duque is trying to increase the state retirement age and increase pension contributions.

There is a growing fightback against right-wing leaders across Latin America. Earlier this week Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno was forced to relocate the seat of government and impose a state of emergency due to anger over IMF reforms.

And it is likely that Argentinian President Mauricio Macri will lose to his left-wing rivals in next month’s elections, due to anger over corruption and IMF-imposed austerity.

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