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With Carlos Frigerio

United is the way to go


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 particular?

-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 global scale.


-What’s happening with Collective Bargaining Agreements?

-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 together.





From Buenos Aires, Carlos Amorín


September 24, 2008





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