With Carlos Reyes

SABMiller, Pepsico and Coca Cola
impose extensive working hours


The Union of Beverage Workers (STIBYS) has started a campaign to complain against and raise awareness about the effects and consequences of the extensive working hours of up to 16 hours per day imposed by SABMiller, Pepsico and Coca Cola. SIREL spoke with the president of the national union board, Carlos Reyes, to get a better understanding of the campaign and its background.


-Why did you start this campaign?

-Last January we signed a collective bargaining agreement after 18 months of negotiations. One of its main aspects was a definition of the working hours, at least for the “Sales” staff, who deal with the clients. According to our labour legislation the daily working hours of outdoor staff must not exceed 12 hours, which is what we established in our agreement. However in the neoliberal model transnational companies sign collective bargaining agreements in bad faith, they are not prepared to comply with the agreements they sign. This is currently our problem, as we deal with SABMiller, Pepsico and Coca Cola.


-In which ways do the companies fail to comply with the agreement?

-The companies benefit from the fact that these colleagues receive a payment consisting of a basic wage and additional sales-related commissions. When offered the opportunity to earn extra money some accept longer working hours, thereby weakening our organisation and our claims, because taking the example of those who work 14 or 16 hours the company insists that everybody should do the same. Besides, these long working hours are absolutely inhuman, given the kind of work, which is often based on repeated strain due to the handling of heavy weights. This has serious long-term effects on the workers. After a few years their vertebral column will be destroyed and leave them unable to work.   


-How does the company act in such cases?

-They try to get rid of these workers by dismissing them or handing out money to make them leave. We are very worried about all this, because the companies take advantage of the needs of some people and the physical strength or others, mainly the younger ones, by promising them additional pay. Therefore we chose the following slogan for our campaign against extended working hours: “Pan para hoy, hambre para mañana“ [meaning: You may live more or less comfortably now, but in the future you won´t be able to make a living]. By working more than 12 hours in Sales we may earn a few additional cents today, but tomorrow we will suffer from injuries, illnesses and unemployment.  


-Which companies use this working arrangement and why?

-The transnational companies SABMiller, Pepsico and Coca Cola do so in order to reduce costs. For example, as the workers do their job on a commission basis they don´t receive any extra payment, no additional vehicles are bought and no additional staff is taken on. Instead, they have to serve excessive numbers of clients delivering excessive numbers of cases, which means they are obliged to work for more than 12 hours. If they are unable to fulfil the daily target, they are sanctioned or dismissed. All this is already happening. For instance in La Ceiba they dismissed a member of the national union board, who is also president of the local branch. And in Roatán branch a colleague was suspended for one week, because he was unable to attend the set number of clients. This means the company´s first priority is on selling at any price, even at the expense of workers´ health. We protest against the abuses committed by these companies. A poster we are currently preparing reads: “The transnational companies SABMiller, Pepsico and Coca Cola don´t just produce beer, soft drinks and sick people, they also try to divide us by temporarily assigning the best routes to a small group of colleagues, while discriminating the others. If you belong to that group, rectify your decision. Let´s defend our wage categories!” A company manager once said: “Money makes the world go round”, and we say that we are not going to sell our individual and collective dignity for a few cents.


-How do the companies react?

-We have to watch out, because in the north, where they sanctioned our colleague, all the others have told the company that they won´t work for more than 12 hours. Therefore the company might impose sanctions against the branch, because in their opinion our colleagues´ attitude is a bad example for everybody else. Therefore we inform the UITA about these precedents, and we are going to contact government authorities, because these companies are given to abusive practices and may eventually dismiss our colleagues in order to provoke a conflict. These people don´t understand that they have to act within the law, like ourselves. But for them abuse and casualisation at work are the rules everywhere. Our colleagues have to understand that without the achievements of STIBYS we will earn less, even if we work more and more, and that we will be treated as subcontracted or temporary workers, as we explain on our poster.


-How does the arrangement of excessive working hours operate in detail?

-During peak months most people work between 12 and 16 hours every day. Besides, the company sets routes of 50 clients and 600 cases. No driver with two assistants can comply with so many orders during a normal working day. Therefore clients are repeatedly left out. In these cases the company asks the union for a meeting and accuses the colleagues of serious misconduct. After threatening to dismiss them, they are sanctioned and suspended. They abuse of repressive mechanisms like these, because no trade union will go on strike because of a sanction or a suspension. But people have begun to understand that not only their jobs and health are at risk, but also their union organisation. Our campaign aims at highlighting the abuses committed by these companies and raising awareness among those, who still refuse to understand that long working hours put many things at risk and that they may live better now, but won´t be able to make a living in the future.



In Montevideo, Carlos Amorín
July 7, 2008




related articles

11-1-2008   Honduras - SABMiller     Versión en ESPAÑOL   Versão PORTUGUÉS  
Acuerdos de última hora evitaron la huelga
Orgullo y alegría en un STIBYS fortalecido
Rel-UITA | Carlos Amorín


Volver a Portada


  UITA - Secretaría Regional Latinoamericana - Montevideo - Uruguay

Wilson Ferreira Aldunate 1229 / 201 - Tel. (598 2) 900 7473 -  902 1048 -  Fax 903 0905