After 36 days of
striking, the workers of the Chilean company Calaf
decided to return to work despite failing to achieve
their objectives of improved working conditions and a
decent wage increase.
On October 6, 200 workers of the company Calaf SA
decided to return to work after being on strike for 36
days and despite their failure to obtain a considerable
improvement in their working conditions and wages, which
was the basis of their demands. Throughout the entire
process -in the negotiations prior to the strike, during
the strike itself and in the mediation meetings-, the
company refused to give in to union demands.
In January 2004, Calaf, a traditional
manufacturer of cookies and candies who began operating
in 1897 in Talca, was purchased by Compañías
Cerveceras Unidas SA (CCU), which in that way
diversified its original beer and soft drink business to
include confectionary goods. As part of this
diversification strategy, CCU also acquired the
After Calaf incorporated the brand Natur
to its line of goods –thus branching into the cereal
business-, in early 2008, a new food manufacturing
company was formed under the name Foods Compañía de
Alimentos CCU to produce and market products under
the trademarks Natur and Calaf.
is in turn primarily owned by two large majority
shareholders: the Chilean holding company Luksic
and the Dutch corporation Heineken.
Almost two months ago, on September 1, the 200 workers
called a strike in the Talca and La Reina
(Santiago) plants, after failing to obtain
results in the collective bargaining process, where the
workers demanded a 40-dollar wage increase and the
company offered only 1.60 dollars.
present, the base salary of the majority of the La Reina
plant workers is approximately 250 dollars a month, the
legal minimum wage, plus production bonuses and extras,
which make a total of some 315 dollars.
The workers’ demands also included the leveling of
contract conditions for the two Calaf of Talca
and Santiago, as, for example, La Reina
workers receive a Christmas bonus that is less than 40
percent of the bonus paid to Talca workers. Other
demands were a compensation for workers that participate
in the bargaining process, an extra pay of 50 percent
for night shifts, and the adjustment of wages according
to the CPI plus 1 percent as of September 1,
2008, and again in 2009.
In the mandatory mediation convened by the Conciliation
and Mediation Center of the Metropolitan Region Labor
Board, held on September 15 through 25, the company
rejected the list of demands and refused to meet
directly with the union, thus denying the possibility of
negotiating an agreement. The unsuccessful mediation was
initiated in response to a growing tension between
management and workers, who tried to block the entry of
external workers brought in by the company with a police
escort, in violation of Article 381 of the Labor Code,
as would later be acknowledged by the Communal Labor
Inspection of Southeastern Santiago in its
Resolution Nº45, issued September 9.
This confrontational policy and the company’s refusal to
engage in serious negotiations clearly reflect Calaf’s
attitude towards its workers, as it is willing to accept
Chile’s labor legislation, but only when it
serves its interests. And apparently it wasn’t in its
interest to solve the conflict through negotiations.