Published: 07/10/2020

In an interview with the IUF’s Latin America region the national president of the Union of Workers of the Beer, Beverage, Food, Malt and Similar Industry (USTIAM) outlined the difficulties that the organization faces with the Colombian management of the beer giant AB InBev (Bavaria).

-What is happening in AB InBev Colombia?
-“The company is systematically dismissing workers, both in the form of straight dismissals without just cause and by pressuring workers to resign to give the appearance of “voluntary” retirements. In this way it has been decimating the union because many of those fired or forced to leave are part of our organization. In addition, it does not recognize the USTIAM: so when these dismissals occur management goes directly to the workers without going through their union.

-What measures did you take before this?
The unions contacted the president of AB InBev in Colombia in April to discuss pending issues; including those concerning the pandemic, but to date we have had no meaningful response. He sent us representatives from the Human Resources and Legal areas with whom we have not been able to establish a constructive and serious dialogue. They are delaying the solution of workers’ problems and at this point it is a worrying situation. We believe that they are out to attack the union not least because they have fired union members without just cause, among other violations of our union’s rights.”
– How long has this been the situation and how many workers have been fired?
Since 2016 and so far this year there has already been more than 40 dismissals, most of them were members of our trade union. That is one of the ways to attack the union. The other is that the Colombian management tries to discredit the USTIAM through very subtle methods: For example in meetings management agrees to comply around a certain issue that concerns workers and then fails to comply, leaving us looking like we are misleading our members and generating fear in the rest of the workforce.

– Has it been always like this?
Bavaria was never easy, but since AB InBev arrived, the pressure on workers and the union has increased. It was in 2020 that the situation got complicated. Last year, during the collective bargaining process, workers voted to strike, an agreement was immediately signed and a supplementary clause was approved that there would be no reprisals against those who had participated in the strike vote. This agreement was broken when management started dismissing union members this year. We continue to demand a serious and respectful dialogue

-Did you file a complaint with the labor authority?
Yes. Between January and February we warned the Ministry of Labor, through a letter about the breaching of this clause and so far we have not received a response. What we ask is that AB InBev opens a space for serious and respectful dialogue and ceases the intransigent position it has today.

In addition, we demand that the dismissed workers be reinstated because they are workers with years of work in the company and with an impeccable record, who have never received any kind of job performance warnings.

This systematic policy of dismissal without just cause from AB InBev is not carried out on a single occasion on a massive scale. Every two months management takes out two or three unionized workers and in this way weakens the union.

That is why we call on the parent company of the company to intercede and find a solution to this problem.”

You can read the original news in Spanish here.