Uruguay: Coca-Cola Workers Stage 24-Hour Stoppage against anti-union discrimination and payroll cuts

On Thursday, April 3, the Coca-Cola Workers Union (STCC) is set to stop all activities in the company. Latin America region of the IUF spoke with Gustavo Sotelo, STCC organization secretary, to learn how the conflict originated and what measures the union is planning to take.

-How did the conflict leading up to this work stoppage begin?
-It started a few months back, when the Federation of Beverage Transportation Workers (FETRABE), which represents the truck drivers hired by Montevideo Refrescos SA, the Coca-Cola Company bottler in Uruguay, made changes to the way work was organized.

These operational changes resulted in personnel cuts that affected several drivers, both union and non-union members. This led to a negotiation that concluded with a tripartite resolution in mid December 2013.

Discrimination

-What happened now?
-What reignited the conflict with FETRABE, and thus with Coca-Cola, was that in January there was a job opening in one of the transportation companies and instead of giving priority for the job to one of the workers who had been laid off late last year, some of whom had 25 years of truck driving experience, the company hired a driving assistant who is not even a member of the union.

Another of our demands is that of the workers who were laid off because of the restructure in late 2013, the company has only been reinstating those who had not been STCC members.

The case of unionized drivers with 25 years of experience is the most obvious example of FETRABE's anti-union policy.

24 hour work stoppage

-What measures has the union been taking?
-Over the past week we have stepped up our briefing assemblies, both at the plant in Montevideo and in the warehouses outside the capital, where we have met with fierce resistance from management.

In San José, for example, police cracked down on workers who were holding one of these meetings.

-Has this affected product distribution?
-It has caused delays, but at no time have products been left undelivered to a store. So far truckers have distributed their goods uninterruptedly.

-What future actions are you planning?
-Tomorrow (Thursday, April 3), we will hold a National General Assembly with a 24-hour work stoppage, where we will decide on the union actions we will carry out if Coca-Cola does not mediate in the conflict with FETRABE.

We will study the situation and hope to find a solution we can all agree, so as to put an end to the conflict and avoid a longer strike.

Last week we met with Pablo Quiroga, general secretary of the Latin American Federation of Coca-Cola Workers (Felatrac), who expressed their solidarity with our struggle and undertook to give our union their firmest support.

Interview with Gustavo Sotelo
Rel-UITA
April 2, 2014