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Unified Central of Workers (CUT)

Unified Central of Workers (CUT)

The largest labor confederation in Colombia since 1986, the Unified Central of Workers (Central Unitaria de Trabajadores—CUT) has at various times represented from 50 to possibly 80 percent of unionized workers. The creation of the CUT reflected the growing disenchantment of the rank and file with the corrupt and ineffective leadership of the two traditional labor confederations, the Union of Colombian Workers (UTC) and the Confederation of Colombian Workers (CTC). When, starting in 1980, employers launched an antiunion campaign to drastically slash wages, the workers became militant and began to sympathize with the Communist organization, the Syndical Confederation of Colombian Workers (CSTC), itself reeling from a combined government-employer offensive.

To preempt the Communists, in 1985 President Belisario Betancur appointed a union leader, Jorge Carrillo Rojas, as minister of labor. Carillo Rojas decided to merge the four existing labor confederations into a new one, the CUT. This unwieldy coalition survived while he remained as minister but disintegrated as soon as he resigned to become the head of the CUT in 1986. Most unions stayed in the CUT, however, so that it continued to represent at least half of the unionized workers. Likewise, many unaffiliated unions joined the CUT. When the CSTC merged with the CUT, the CTC and UTC leaders charged that the new confederation was under Communist control. Against the advice of Carrillo Rojas, militants voted to participate in two general strikes, in 1987 and 1988, both of which ended in failure.

Employers and the government had wanted the CUT to end Communist influence but not to become an independent force. In an attempt to undermine support for the CUT, the government funded and supported the nearly moribund CTC and UTC. Since 1988 the CUT has concentrated on backing workers in specific struggles, such as those on banana plantations and in government agencies threatened with privatization.

See alsoLabor Movements .


René De La Pedraja, "Colombia," in Latin American Labor Organizations, edited by Gerald Greenfield and Sheldon L. Maram (1987), pp. 179-212.

Fernando López-Alves, "Explaining Confederation: Colombian Unions in the 1980s," in Latin American Research Review 25 (1990): 115-133.

Additional Bibliography

Cabrera Mejía, María Alicia. El sindicalismo en Colombia: Una historia para resurgir. Bogotá, Colombia: M.A. Cabrera Mejía, Editorial Nomos, 2005.

Delgado, Alvaro. El sindicalismo bogotano del nuevo siglo. Bogotá: Alcaldía Mayor de Bogotá, Instituto Distrital de Cultura y Turismo (Observatorio de Cultura Urbana), 2003.

Silva Romero, Marcel. Flujos y Reflujos: Reseña histórica sobre la autonomía del sindicalismo colombiano. Bogotá: Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Facultad de Derecho, Ciencias Políticas y Sociales, 1998.

                                    RenÉ De La Pedraja

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