Coca-Cola gets nasty


In Guatemala, one of the Coca-Cola franchises is held by the company Industrias de Café S.A. (INCASA). Our member organization, the Trade Union Federation of Food, Agroindustry and Related Industry Workers of Guatemala (FESTRAS), concerned over the situation of INCASA workers, organized a meeting with representatives of the three regions: the Capital, Retalhuleu and Escuintla. Sirel spoke with three Union leaders about the solidarista movement and the negotiations for collective bargaining agreement.


Luis Felipe Catalán, secretary of finance at SITINCA Capital and member of the Bargaining Committee said that “repressive actions against Union members have been commonplace [in INCASA] for some time now, with workers being penalized and suspended with no right to defense. In some cases, as soon as workers join the union, they are visited by company representatives who intimidate them or their families. There is a specific case in which a company representative, Mr. Ivo Orozco, is facing trial under charges of making such threats.”


On this same issue, Bairon Hernández of SITINCA Retalhuleu added that: “the company has been applying a policy of reprisals against workers who try to organize themselves in a union, while at the same time promoting the establishment of a parallel association with the specific aim of undermining the labor movement. This policy was exacerbated last April, when a group of workers joined the Union. Management intensified their measures to intimidate workers, and began by cutting down overtime and retaining production bonuses, and to date has not signed the collective agreement concerning working conditions.”


The situation is no different in the Coca-Cola branch in Escuintla, Manuel Castellanos, representative of that delegation, remarked that he himself had suffered threats and persecution. “Several of us executive committee members, paid a routine visit to the branch last August 1, but we were stopped at the gate, while armed guards insulted us and threatened to shoot us if we didn’t leave. All of this happened in front of managers and supervisors, who laughed at us, as they watched how we were harassed –with firearms- and forced to leave.”


Asked about the campaign to convince workers to leave the Union, the unionists declared that the company has a clear position in this sense. Two methods are being used to try to make workers renounce their union membership: threats and bribes. For Castellanos, the situation got worsen “When we were told that the IUF and the Coca-Cola Company had reached an agreement at the international level to dismantle the solidarista movement that is still active in the company. As of that moment, INCASA’s support for that movement became more evident, at the same time it increased the acts of repression against SITINCA members.”


With respect to the negotiations for the collective bargaining agreement, the situation is more or less the same in all the three branches, in Catalán’s opinion,the company is delaying the negotiation, as a strategy, and has shown no willingness to reach an agreement, which is why we’ve now reached the judicial stage,” he said. Bairon Hernández agrees that “the company is deploying dilatory tactics to wear workers down and weaken the labor movement. In September 2006, we began negotiating the agreement the direct way, and continued negotiations until March, without obtaining the results we sought, so we had no other choice than to bring the matter before labor jurisdictional bodies. In July of this year we moved on to arbitration, where we made some progress in the negotiations, with only nine demands remaining unresolved. The arbitration board ruled in favor of the workers in the most important issues, such as the period covered by the agreement. The company refuses to pay retroactivity, compensating it instead with a bonus, which is illegal. Now we’re awaiting the award, which is to be issued within 20 days as of July 28.”


As for union measures, the labor leaders said that they’re filing court actions. “We are also planning joint activities with fellow activists from FESTRAS and STECSA, to denounce the repressive actions committed by INCASA representatives,” Hernández added.


Castellanos finished by saying that: “we’ve also reported these abuses to the Labor Inspection Bureau and the Office of the Human Rights Ombudsman.”

In Montevideo, Amalia Antúnez

© Rel-UITA

August 15, de 2007







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