On 16 March the new collective agreement reached with the Coca-Cola franchise at Carepa (Urabá – Antioqueńo, Banana Zone) was presented to members of the IUF-affiliated Union of Workers in the Beverage Industry: Brewery, Malts, Juices and Soft Drinks of Colombia SICO.
The new two-year collective agreement, in effect from 15 February 2002 to 15 February 2004, was signed just before the limited period authorized for a strike was reached. The most difficult issues centered on guarantees for the right of association, union rights and job security. The critical pre-strike period required the intervention of the IUF General and Latin American Regional Secretariats, which through Coca-Cola put pressure on the franchise holder “Beverages and Foods of Urabá”. These interventions facilitated an agreement that guarantees the application of ILO Conventions 87 and 98, and the conversion of limited term contracts into permanent indefinite work contracts. The large number of short-term contracts had previously set a sharp limit to the union’s membership and restricted coverage by the collective agreement to 50 percent of the workers.
The company finally agreed to the union demand for conversion of the contracts, and union membership grew at the signing of the contract to include 80% of the total production, maintenance, sales and non-managerial administrative employees.
A job security article was signed that establishes a system in which the company cannot decide on disciplinary action for errors or on possible cancellations of work contracts without prior consultation and discussion with the union.
In the economic realm, wage parameters followed the Consumer Price Index plus one percent, a percentage, which for 31 December 2001 was 7.65%. For example, this was the percentage increase reached in the brewery industry. In the Coca-Cola/SICO contract, an additional increase of 19.33% was signed for the first year, thanks to an agreed formula based on a table of percentages related to the cases of products sold per month.
Other articles included social welfare, work safety, and health plans for the workers’ families.
The SICO Local Section in Carepa-Urabá began its organising work in 1999 and was established in January 2000. In its process of contacting and organising the Coca-Cola workers, SICO relied on the extensive support of the National Union of Workers in the Agrarian Industry (SINTRAINAGRO) and the IUF Latin America Education Project. The first collective agreement was signed in Carepa on 15 February 2000.
The union also recognized the usefulness of the solidarity from the Colombia mission of the IUF Latin American Regional Committee, which last August met with government officials, unions and political personalities. In Bogotá, the mission met with Gilberto Villabona García, Chief Operating Officer of Coca-Cola Carepa, where among other points he was clearly informed that SICO had broad and effective international support from the IUF.
This report from SICO National President Luis Alejandro Pedraza Becerra and General Secretary Luis Angel Ayala Guzman was translated from the 22 March newsletter of SIREL (the information service of the IUF Latin American region) and can be read in Spanish on that region’s web-site accessible from the front page of this site.