Carlos Frigerio is the general secretary of
the Argentinean Federation of Beer and
Related Industry Workers (FATCA), and he
participated in the First International
Conference of the Latin American Federation
of InBev Workers, recently held in Buenos
Aires. In dialogue with Sirel, he mapped out
the current situation of beer industry
workers in Argentina and announced the
FATCA’s intention to reapply for membership
with the IUF soon.
-How is the situation of beer industry
workers in Argentina?
-The local industry is accompanying the
general trend that we are seeing throughout
Latin America, which is an increase
in the participation of Brazilian capital,
not just in breweries, but also in the
economy as a whole. InBev took over
the leading national brewery companies
almost three years ago. First it established
itself as Brahma in the city of
Luján, and from there they competed in
particular with the leading local company,
which was Cervecería Quilmes and
which they ultimately acquired.
-Exactly what share of the domestic market
did Quilmes have?
-Nearly 80 percent of the market.
-How many people are employed in the beer
industry in general and by InBev in
-The industry as a whole employs some five
thousand people, of which about 3,200 are
concentrated in the five companies that
InBev has in Argentina. These
figures are only for production and sales
workers, as distributors are represented by
a different trade union.
-What are the main problems currently
detected by beer industry workers?
-Some are exclusively sectorial, but others
arise from the interference of national
policies. This is a pretty complicated
country, where one day there may be a
decision in one sense and the next day that
decision no longer applies because something
happened that changed the conditions. Wages,
for example, have been severely hit by a
steep inflation. But, with respect to our
specific area, we, beer workers, are seeing
with concern the expansion policy that is
being applied by InBev, because
global companies are exposed to crises that
are also global, as has happened with other
transnational corporations, and in such
cases we ask ourselves how that will affect
workers. It’s harder to defend ourselves
locally with a company that operates on a
-What’s happening with Collective Bargaining
-We’re handling that pretty well. From what
we’re hearing at this meeting of the Latin
American Federation, we are more or less at
the same salary level and with the same
problems as other countries. Which is why I
think that joining this Federation will be a
step forward towards finding solutions to
some of the problems that we currently face.
-The FACTA used to be a member of the IUF…
-We were members for many, many years, and
we participated in several Latin American
Conferences of the International chapter. In
2001, Argentina’s economy collapsed, and
trade unions were severely affected. Our
unions lost numerous members and a large
part of their income. Now we’re in the
process of recovering and we are doing
everything necessary to reapply for
membership in the near future.
-What do you hope to achieve with your
membership to the IUF?
-It is essential to network with the other
beer workers of the region, to establish
smoother and more permanent mechanisms to
communicate with each other, more so bearing
in mind that InBev is moving very
fast, even trampling local bargaining
agreements. Which is why this instance
offers a great possibility to attain better
positions from which to defend national laws
and local agreements. We think that the
best way to achieve this is through the IUF,
and it will be the only chance we’ll have to
defend ourselves from a corporate attack
against beer industry workers.
-What is your assessment of this First
International Conference of the Federation?
-We’ve seen that, for the most part, we all
have similar problems. It’s obvious that
this company is only interested in making a
profit, not caring about the consequences of
what it has to do to achieve its goal. All
it wants is to make money. I think that as
workers, regardless of the country we’re in,
we have to abandon the belief that some of
us are better than the rest, because
ultimately we’re all working to earn a
salary so we can support our families. The
best way to do that is to communicate more
with each other, find better ways to
network, and maintain a firm unity. This
Federation is an excellent tool, and we must
use it to react fast and act as one when
we’re faced with a corporate attack in any
of the countries of the region.
Individually, our unions have no way out.
The solutions can only be found if we act