Possible strike at Coca-Cola Paraguay

On December 1 2015, Paraguay Refrescos SA, a Paraguayan subsidiary of Chile's Embotelladora Andina SA, the third largest Coca-Cola bottler in Latin America, presented a proposal to the workers whom deliver its products throughout the country daily. Workers have rejected this proposal and a few days before the outbreak of a possible strike, the union of drivers and sales assistants gave a final counter proposal.

"Workers do not ask for anything special, but simply ask for respect and the application of the labor law in Paraguay," told Jorge Caceres, president of the Drink and Allied Workers Union (USTBA).

In Paraguay Refrescos SA (Paresa) Sales department is fully outsourced. Route drivers and sales assistants, whom deliver the Coca Cola products throughout the country daily, suffer constant violations of their rights.

In this situation, the workers affiliated to the Drivers, Soda, Water, Juices, Energy Drinks and Allied Workers Union of Paraguay (Sichegapar) decided to call a general strike and the start date will be announced in the coming days.

Unprotected workers

According to the counter proposal presented to the freight companies and Paresa (Coca Cola), the Sichegapar asks for monthly basis salary increase and payment of wages, respect to the working day of 8 hours a day or 48 hours per week, and the payment of any extra working hours "with the compensation set by the Labour Code".

It also requires registration of all workers in the Social Security Social Security Institute (IPS), the payment of bonuses and holidays, as well as the granting of paid union leave for members of the board and discount union dues. It also requests providing the security to all workers "to meet safety standards."

Finally, Sichegapar proposed that both companies meet as soon as possible "to study a draft Collective Agreement on Working Conditions".

"Companies are resisting reaching a written agreement with workers. They want to find a verbal arrangement and this will not be possible. They have to sit down and sign a collective bargaining agreement with us, "said Caceres.

General Secretary of the Paraguayan Brewery workers union organized at AB-InBev (Sintracervepar) also said that workers remain firm.

"We estimate that 97 percent of workers would support the strike. Hopefully companies will reconsider and accept to sit down and negotiate a real agreement," Caceres said.

Paraguay to strike against insecurity and dispossession

The situation of drivers and assistants in Paraguay Refrescos SA is part of a generalized crisis sweeping the entire country.

Trade unions, social and popular organizations in Paraguay called for a general strike and a national civic strike to be conducted on December 21 and 22.

Besides combating job insecurity and denial of rights, the two activities organized by a broad spectrum of organizations pose the struggle for the elimination of large estates and achieving a real reform.

"It's a very important moment for the country. We will join in this effort and this great mobilization," said Caceres.

The original story in Spanish is here