During the 60th
Congress of FATAGA, Sirel maintained a dialogue with Bernardino Herrera (BH),
general secretary; Omar Navarrete (ON), union secretary; and Garabito Leonardo
(GL), deputy secretary of the Unified Union of Carbonated Beverages and Related
Industry Workers (SUTIAGA), on the facts and success of the Union and the
Federation at Coca Cola Neuquén.
-Are you satisfied with the outcome after so many days of struggle?
-(BH) Imagine. It was a conflict we did not deserve, which was born abroad, in Chile –where
the head office of Grupo Polar
is located. This is not our first conflict with this company, our relations have
always been difficult.
After so many days at the plant, we are satisfied to take part in this Congress,
aware that we have delivered. It was not easy, but the strength of workers and
the solidarity of many unions, including the
IUF, succeeded, with the result that the plant is operating.
-I think that the presence of Raúl Álvarez, general secretary of FATAGA was a
-(GL) As we expressed at the plenary meeting of the 60 Congress, his presence,
his words and his approach were crucial, he injected the will to struggle, which
was renewed, and so was our morale. Also delegates from the Federal Capital and
from Bahia Blanca were present, which is very much appreciated.
People felt supported, as you stated, we felt the cold climate while we were at
the plant, but never the cold of loneliness, because we were supported at every
step either personally or through letters coming from everywhere.
company closed the plant, paid severance packages, but today the
plant is working again ... it is something we will not easily
forget, it is a win we must feel proud of. It was a beautiful
-Is it true that the support and solidarity letters from foreign unions used to
be read at the General Meetings?
-(ON) Yes, and it was useful to build confidence and feel strong to go on
struggling despite everything. We received letters from Brazil, Colombia, Peru,
Nicaragua, Uruguay, we
felt very supported. And also the support from FATAGA,
which was essential to be successful.
Today, our people in Neuquén wear the colors of FATAGA, because they feel
it is part of their history. Formerly it was hard for many brothers to
understand the Federation and how it works, which is understandable because we
are more than 1,200 kilometers apart. The same used to happen when we spoke
about the IUF…our brothers did
not know what it was and did not understand what it was about.
But now everyone knows the significance of FATAGA and
the IUF, and also know how
crucial their support was.
-(GL) Now our brothers understand the important role of
Raúl Álvarez as general
secretary, because we were at the plant, but he was applying pressure from
Buenos Aires and coordinating actions internationally.
For us, this struggle and its results are a hallmark. The company closed the
plant, paid severance packages, but today the plant is working again ... it is
something we will not easily forget, it is a win we must feel proud of. It was a
Reporting that we had won this battle, that we had saved our jobs, was very
moving This happened at approximately 11 pm on 15 September and the most
emotional moment was the General Union Meeting the next day It was the moment to
ease the tension, the time for crying and celebrating.
-What would be your message to all the unions who supported your struggle?
-(BH) I think this has been a learning on how to carry out these struggles, on
how to contribute among ourselves. This has been an example of unity, solidarity
and we are very thankful.