The following was posted with the permission of Sintracihobi.
March 31, 2016
On Strike April 4th in Response to the Crisis at ICBF
Press Conference: Monday April 4 at 10:00 am at ICBF national headquarters in Ak 68 #64c-75, Bogotá
Approximately 7000 members of SINTRACIHOBI – the national union that represents public sector childcare workers – has voted to go on strike indefinitely beginning on April 4 in response to the social and humanitarian crisis that has unfolded as a result of the administrative shortcomings in early childhood development programs at the hands of the Colombian Family Welfare Institute (ICBF).
This administrative improvisation is rooted in ICBF’s plans to discontinue Colombia’s traditional family welfare programs, which have been staffed by working mothers for more than 30 years. As a results of substandard and careless management, childcare services have been discontinued for thousands of working families in 2016 due to a lack of the necessary infrastructure. This has in turn resulted in the deaths of children from malnutrition or conditions of neglect. Our union has repeatedly denounced this situation to ICBF but has received no response.
To address the crisis, the National Director at ICBF Cristina Plazas Michelsen was called to a public hearing on February 18 so that she could learn about the plight of children across the country. At the hearing, childcare workers from 32 departments made serious allegations regarding the condition of child abuse at the hands of private operators that throughout the country. From every region, workers denounced the miserable rations of food ICBF provides for children in its programs. From La Guajira, community mother Nelly de la Hoz said “I am forced to make soup for 12 children with only 6 ounces of beans.” Another, from Cundinamarca, offered “when there is a child suffering from malnutrition, ICBF has us fill out a form, but does nothing to remove the child from the situation.”
Apart from this critical situation in terms of care, childcare workers are also the victims of labor persecution. They are being systematically harassed by both private operators and ICBF, and hired by means of short-term contracts that violate legal guarantees and deny workers required benefits.
This violation of labor protections was exacerbated when a new system governing the bidding process for childcare contracts was introduced in 2015. This digital platform was an ‘open invitation’ for anyone with financial muscle to manage early childhood programs. The implementation of this system pitted private operators against the historically traditional associations, which are run by childcare workers and the parents of the children in the system. The new system allows ICBF officials to pick those who win the contracts essentially at whim, and is subject to the influence of monetary interests or personal relationships, which has allowed corruption to permeate the recruitment process. This has also forced traditional childcare workers to migrate to private operators, however the elderly and sick are often not received in spite of compulsory ICBF guidelines.
Our struggle is for dignified conditions for the children that benefit from Colombia’s early childhood development programs and for our rights as working women. To this end, we have called an indefinite strike beginning on Monday, April 4, in all cities throughout the country. We will formally present our list of demands to ICBF Monday April 4th at 10 am in Bogota.
Information in Spanish: Olinda Garcia, President SINTRACIHOBI, (+57) 310 259 2135
Andres Leon, Press SINTRACIHOBI, (+57) 305 727 3679
Information in English: Neil Martin, PASO International, (+57) 311 561 8403