Published: 29/05/2020

An interview with Jaime Acevedo

Union denounces lack of information on those affected by COVID-19.

On May 18, 2020 members of the Union of Workers of the Panama Beer Industry (STICP), with the support of the Union of Workers in the Manufacture and Marketing of Soft Drinks, Beverages, Beers, Liqueurs and Similar products of Panama (Sitrafcorebgascelis) and Unitary Federation of the Working Class (FUCLAT), protested in front of AB InBev’s production plant in the capital city.

Since the start of the pandemic, unionized workers have repeatedly requested the company to form a Special Committee on Health and Hygiene for the prevention of COVID-19.

A Special Committee is a requirement that emanates from Ministerial Resolution DM 137-2020, and which has the objective of ensuring compliance with health regulations and the application of the safety protocol in the workplace.

“Unfortunately, the company has systematically refused to meet with the union, and has not been transparent about the coronavirus cases that have arisen within the company,” Jaime Acevedo, secretary general of STICP, told the IUF Latin America region.

According to the union official, at least 8 workers have been infected in the last two months, but the company did not even want to reveal the names of the people affected. “They hide behind the fact that the information is confidential. They did not want to tell us their names, nor what areas they belong to and how many workers they decided to isolate. They also did not want to inform us about what security measures they took, what labour guarantees they are giving them and if they are monitoring their conditions” explained Acevedo.

All this violates the content of the ministerial resolution and generates more uncertainty, he added.
Collective agreement is on paper only.

The STICP general secretary also complained that the National Brewery was taking advantage of the health crisis to carry out dismissals disguised as terminations by “mutual agreement” that are clear violations of the collective agreement.

This type of action is not new in the company, and the union has submitted a list of violations of the collective agreement to the labor authorities. According to STICP, on May 4 at least 10 workers were fired and another 12 are being pressured to agree to sign a “voluntary resignation” letter.

AB InBev is openly unfair and attacks workers’ rights. The company does not guarantee the presence of security personnel in the trucks or the number of distribution assistants stipulated in the agreement,” Acevedo said. “Furthermore, and without any need whatsoever, it is hiring third party contractors to carry out permanent work.”

STICP and Sitrafcorebgascelis called on AB InBev to end these negative practices, to respect what the ministerial resolution dictates and to comply with all the clauses of the collective agreement.

“We are going to stay mobilized and we hope to be able to meet with the employers soon,” the Acevedo concluded.

Please find a short video of this protest action here.

Please see here the original news story in Spanish.