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With Lucilene Binsfeld

Carrefour reacts viciously against

workers rallying peacefully


Last August 30, the National Confederation of Store and Services Workers (CONTRACS), an IUF affiliate, called all Carrefour unions to a demonstration held in front of the French transnational corporation’s facilities in the Sao Paulo district of Osasco, demanding that workers be given a just participation in the company’s profits and operating income. Demonstrators were savagely attacked by the Police, and some union leaders were taken into custody. Sirel spoke with Lucilene Binsfeld, president of CONTRACS, who gave an account of what happened and announced the actions the labor movement plans to take against Carrefour’s deplorable conduct. 



-Can you tell us what the relationship between CONTRACS and Carrefour had been like until this happened?

-There’s a project prepared by the United Workers’ Federation (CUT), called CUTMULTI, which deals specifically with transnational corporations. CONTRACS decided to work with Carrefour and Wal-Mart, among others.

One of the demands of union leaders in this process was to discuss a proposal for Worker Participation in Profits and Operating Income (PLR). We began negotiating with the company and asked Carrefour’s management to provide us with some information to verify whether it was possible to meet the targets presented -in the proposal- to the workers.

Up until that moment, the relationship with the Union had been a good one. As soon as we requested the information, the situation grew tense, as the company refused to disclose any income information. We were puzzled by this reaction, because if we didn’t have access to the information, how could we verify whether it was possible to meet the targets for a PLR

At that point, the company contacted CONTRACS via e-mail to pressure us to accept their proposal without questioning its content, or else they would walk out of the negotiations. We discussed this with the Carrefour network union, and decided to hold a peaceful rally, in Osasco.


-How was the demonstration carried out?

-We gathered at three gates in front of the Carrefour facilities, organizing meetings, waving our flags, and asking management to resume negotiations with the labor movement. After a while we decided to concentrate at a single gate, when it was time for customers to begin arriving. What we wanted was to talk to them, to explain what the working conditions of Carrefour’s employees are like. When management saw this it called the Military Police, which came charging brutally against the demonstrators. In a clear abuse of authority, they assaulted workers with pepper spray, threatened them with billy clubs, and finally hit several of our fellow workers. Despite our attempts to reason with them, we only received more unjustified violence, specially considering that we had announced that the demonstration would last until 10 am. There were only four minutes to go before we left when they came down on our fellow worker Alci Matos, the Secretary of International Relations of CONTRACS: they seized him violently to arrest him, hitting and cuffing him, while all the other policemen made a human barrier to prevent demonstrators from coming near. We asked them to let him go, explaining that we were leaving, but they paid no attention to us.


-What’s Alci’s situation now?

-He was taken to jail, charged with resisting arrest and with contempt of authority, which is absolutely false as they gave him no warning, they just seized him and started to hit him. The Confederation notified his lawyer and he was freed that same day, after a forensic examination, but he’s still in a state of shock as a result of the violence he suffered.


-What actions has CONTRACS taken?

-In Alci’s case, we’re filing a criminal report, and together with the national chapter of CUT, we’re requesting a hearing with the Public Security Secretary of the State of Sao Paulo, to present videos and photos of the demonstration proving it was a peaceful rally and that there was no need for the Military Police to act with such violence. The worst thing about the situation, besides the way the Police acted, was the attitude of the transnational corporation Carrefour, in refusing to negotiate, thinking that it could solve anything that way.

In addition, we’re calling on all our affiliates and on the international organizations we are members of, IUF and UNI, to join the campaign, sending messages to the company to condemn its behavior and ask it to resume negotiations.

Also with CUT’s national chapter, we’re sending a video of the demonstration to France’s CFDT with the aim of initiating talks with Carrefour’s parent company in that country, so that it will intervene in the labor policy of its Brazilian subsidiary.


-What deadlines have you set for Carrefour’s response?

-We’re giving them until mid September, maximum, because we believe that once management begins to receive letters from around the country and the world, it will have to consider our proposal of resuming negotiations, and it will have to give us an answer. If not, then we’ll have to evaluate a new action strategy to face this situation.



In Montevideo, Amalia Antúnez

© Rel-UITA

September 6, 2007




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