HealthLink wades into Colombian union fray

SWAMPSCOTT ? The Swampscott-based environmental and public health advocacy group HealthLink is ramping up support for mine workers in Colombia.According to HealthLink member Lynn Nadeau of Marblehead, the coal miners are treated poorly and their plight can be linked, in part, to the burning of coal in U.S. power plants, including the Salem Harbor Station in Salem.Colombia’s El Cerrejon mine have been spotlighted by human rights and environmental groups because impoverished miners work long days for low pay in conditions that are often unsafe, Nadeau said.”We continue to follow the situation at El Cerrejon coal mine in Colombia, especially recent union negotiations with the owners of the mine,” she said, noting that HealthLink’s strong support for the union was detailed in a Jan. 22 letter to Leon Teicher, president of El Cerrejon in Riohacha, La Guajira, Colombia.”The news from the workers at the Colombian coal mine, El Cerrejon Norte, is not good. The multi-national company that owns the mine is not taking seriously the concerns of their workers as expressed through their union, Sintracarbon, for fair treatment for the employees on all job-related issues,” Nadeau wrote in behalf of HealthLink.”In addition, the union has taken a strong stand about the treatment of the local people who have been removed from their homes – their communities destroyed – who have not been fairly compensated for loss of property. HealthLink deeply admires the union’s commitment to pressing the mine to address the communities’ demands for collective negotiations, collective relocation, and reparations.”Nadeau said at least two of electricity-producing power plants in Massachusetts continue to burn, or have burned, coal form Colombia – both from El Cerrejon and from the Drummond mine.”Because of this, we feel responsible for conditions surrounding the extracting of coal for our electricity,” she said. “We have sent delegations to the area to see the impact of the mine on the lives of neighboring communities who have been there for generations. On our last trip we brought medical personnel to document and treat the children with respiratory problems, skin problems and other illness due to the operation of the mine.”

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