With Pedro Londoño

Mass layoffs

at Seatech tuna plant


Seatech is a tuna processing company that produces tuna under the Van Camp’s brand. At its plant in Cartagena it employs hundreds of workers in near-slavery working conditions. Now, it has fired 14 workers suffering from RSI who had recently been reinstated by a court order, and another two workers who are members of the governing committee of the Food Industry Workers’ Union (USTRIAL). Sirel spoke with union president Pedro Londoño about the situation.


-How did the layoffs occur?

-The company had planned to suspend activities at the plant on July 18 and 19 to perform maintenance, as with the national holiday on the 20, they would have the plant empty for three days.


On Thursday, July 21, as workers were returning to work, Josefina Paternina, member of USTRIAL’s current governing committee, and Marelvis Leones, a member of the union’s complaints and demands committee, were prevented from entering the plant.


Another 14 women workers were also sent home after being recently reinstated by court order following their illegal dismissal due to musculoskeletal injuries caused by the repetitive tasks they performed at work. We consider that these actions amount to a mass layoff.


-What happened next?

-The dismissed workers immediately headed to the offices of the outsourcing company, A Tiempo Servicios Ltda., where the manager, Hernán Tadeo Vélez, refused to see them and called the police to have them removed from the building.


The police naturally responded that it was a labor problem and that there was no reason for them to act.


Coincidently, on Monday, July 18 a Social Protection Ministry inspector had visited the company for an unfinished administrative matter and found that the company had closed the plant without requesting the corresponding permit, which is why we argue that, as they acted under such irregular conditions, all their actions are illegal.

Now more than ever we need to launch the international denunciation campaign against Seatech announced by our regional secretary, Gerardo Iglesias.


-What immediate measures are you taking and how are you going about them?

-We have already started by reporting this situation to the national vice president, Angelino Garzón, who had promised us that he would take action to guarantee union rights, but so far that promise has not materialized in anything concrete.


-Why do you say that?

-Because we have been waiting for over a month to have a meeting with the vice president and another high-ranking official from the Labor Ministry, who was supposed to come to Cartagena, but the meeting was postponed twice. So, promises are just words on paper and no action is taken.


-Why were those meetings postponed?

-What we know is that on Saturday, July 16 we got a call from Oscar Gutiérrez, personal secretary to Vice President Angelino Garzón and the person in charge of arranging that meeting, to tell us that he was very sorry but that the meeting with the Labor Ministry official –a man by the name of Villazán- had to be rescheduled as he had been informed that Villazán had not received the per diems and airplane tickets to travel to Cartagena.


Gutiérrez also informed us that all the reports we filed have been channeled to the corresponding state bodies, such as the Prosecutor’s Office, the General Attorney’s Office and other bodies. This is another indication that whenever any of these bodies receive a report from workers, they reports are promptly filed away without any action being taken. They don’t care about the health or lives of the country’s workers, they don’t care that in our case, the workers are sick and the company is condemning them to a sure death, because, what can a person suffering from RSI do after being fired like that?! Where are they going to find work?


-These layoffs are completely abusive and illegal…

-The company justifies its actions by saying that it’s the responsibility of the outsourcing company. But it’s Seatech who determines who works and who doesn’t. They’ve been getting around the law when it comes to work contracts, because most of the workers have been employed under outsourcing schemes for years. And those schemes are used to conceal the real working relationship.


There’s also anti-union persecution, because the company is always looking for opportunities to fire union officers.  


Now more than ever we need to launch the international denunciation campaign against Seatech announced by our regional secretary, Gerardo Iglesias, as in addition to these layoffs the company has still not sat down to negotiate the list of demands presented by the union on February 1st, thus evidencing an arrogant attitude towards its workers.


-What other actions will you be taking?

-We’ve called an urgent meeting of our governing committee for tonight, where we will discuss the next steps in this conflict.



From Montevideo, Carlos Amorín


July 22, 2011






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