Four former GM plant workers in Colombia have sewn their lips together as part of an indefinite hunger strike in a final attempt to resolve the ongoing practice of debilitating workplace conditions and subsequent reactionary measures by the automaker. Organized by the association of workers and ex-workers (ASOTRECOL), the protest revolves around the plant’s practice of firing injured workers for injuries they received on the job, shortly after the company detected their injuries in its medical facilities. Workers’ injuries stem from repetitive movements, lifting excessive weights, harmful body postures, and an accelerated work pace on the assembly line.
On August 1, 2012, several workers from the plant will have already been peacefully protesting for one year in front of the U.S. Embassy in Colombia. Videos created by ASOTRECOL state that the practice has been occurring for up to 25 years, affecting thousands of workers. In addition, the plant has dismissed at least one worker for having organized an association defending workers’ rights and building awareness of the situation.
“To symbolize their commitment to this hunger strike and to the justice that they are seeking, they will be sewing their mouths closed and plan to carry out the hunger strike to the death,” ASOTRECOL announced in a statement.
Protesters are seeking justice in the form of compensation, medical care, reintegration into the company, or re-training for other jobs.
“The health of the workers was destroyed creating GM profits,” reads a translation of a protest video.
The protest specifically targets GM CEO Dan Akerson and U.S. Ambassador to Colombia Peter McKinley, with Akerson being the subject of a remix video entitled “Crisis of credibility” that explains the protest:
The practice of firing injured workers has also had a toll on the workers’ families, many of whom have lost their houses, have nothing to eat, and have had basic services such as water, electricity, and gas shut off. The association of the workers and ex-workers has opened a petition on change.org and is encouraging users to sign it online by visiting the website and using the keywords “gm workers” to find the petition. As of this writing, the petition has 578 supporters.
GM could not be reached for comment at the time of publication.
Videos containing more information can be found below.