Colombia: New tragedy mourns construction workers

18 January 2018 12:33


The collapse of the Chirajara Bridge that connects Bogotá - Villavicencio highway showed an unfortunate balance of 10 deceased construction workers. On January 15th, 2018, workers were doing their work on the infrastructure project when the bridge collapsed completely. This incident resulted in the killing of Giovany Monroy Zapata, Jair Alexander Castro, Jorge García Beltrán, Jesús Elkin Salas, Alberto Antonio Calle Ortiz, Julio Roberto Salgado Alfonso, Gildardo Jiménez, Giovany Quiroz, José Álvaro Bertel. On top of this group of 9 workers, another non identified victim, has to be added. The tragedy also resulted in serious injuries of more workers who are being taken care of in nearby health centers, and due to the seriousness health conditions of some of them, new deaths will be difficult to prevent.

In a press release, the concessionary company COVIANDES S.A., reported the deaths and qualified deceased workers as "collaborators" of the construction companies GISAICO S.A. and ICMO S.A.S., outsourced companies of the main project company. The project is financed by AVAL Group, of Colombian capital, and reveals the serious shortcomings that characterize the construction systems and culture in Colombia. "..first, they qualify workers as collaborators, which means there is an intention of blurring the figure of active agent in the construction process that all workers are; and secondly, evidence the outsourcing system, which has been denounced as a new form of slavery; collaborators are not allowed to become union members...", said José Lopez and Palmides Escorcia of the Intergremial of Construction and Wood Workers of Colombia, a unitary union work platform formed by 11 trade union organisations from the country's construction sectors and who insists on a dialogue with employers in the sector.

The tragedy of the Chirajara Bridge on the Bogotá - Villavicencio highway, is one of the regular accidents at workplace occurred in the country in less than a year. In April 2017, a total of 21 workers died and 23 resulted injured in the town of Blas de Lezo at the tourist city of Cartagena. Days after, a ceiling collapsed in the area known as Bosque de la Circunvalar, in the same city that put at risk the lives of the workers who worked there.

From the regional headquarters of BWI in Panama City, Nilton Freitas, Regional Representative, called to pay attention to the high accident rate in the construction sector in Colombia and to show solidarity by sending letters highlighting this serious situation and calling on employers and labor authorities to start a dialogue in order to find solutions. These notes can be sent to the Minister of Transport: Ing. German Cardona by uploading them into the the portal of the Ministry of Transportation of Colombia, through the following link: Copies of these letters should be sent to for monitoring and follow-up.

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