Published: 24/02/2012

Supported by the IUF, Aldo Lezana, president of the National Federation of Dairy Sector in Chile (FENATRAL), travelled to New Zealand and met with leaders of Fonterra to whom he explained the situation of workers in Chile Soprole. Sirel spoke with him about the content of this meeting.

– How did you arrange your trip to New Zealand?
This trip is arranged as a result of an invitation from the IUF to our Latin America Federation

– When was the meeting?
‘It was on Tuesday, February 7. The IUF general secretary, Comrade Ron Oswald, James Ritchie Dairy Workers’ Union of New Zealand (NZDWU), representatives of trade unions in Australia and of course one of a directors form Fonterra were present.

It doesn’t seem fair that Soprole implements a policy that discriminates against contract workers, and, as a shareholder, Fonterra also participates in it.

– What was raised at that meeting?

I had 30 minutes to express problems in Chile, and I want to thank the solidarity of the participants in the meeting who gave their time. As we have been claiming for some time, we report on three axes.

The first is our claim of what we call “effective communication” that is, a productive dialogue, resolving, with dates and deadlines, and not until now that we sit around a table and pass the time without problems are resolved.

The second axis was referred to as “occupational health and safety” measures. In this regard we proposed the need of the company to make a health history of Soprole workers to accurately assess the damage they have suffered from repetitive strain injuries (RSIs).

We also talked about the internal problems that cause some discrimination towards our union, which is generated with respect to the other union in the company. We propose that to regain credibility and improve the living conditions of workers, the company must set a common date for both negotiating unions.

The third theme was about contract workers. In this regard we suggest that they are part of the production chain and it’s not fair that Soprole implements a policy that discriminates against them, and, as a shareholder, Fonterra also participates in it.

For the Union the meeting is a breakthrough because we have never been able to have direct contact with Fonterra.

The contract workers have no social, economic dignity, their wages are just above the minimum wage, and that level in Chile is not enough for any family.

To end this discrimination, we argue that it is even possible to make a separate Convention for these workers to be made accountable for how much the broker is pocketing that money and apply this amount to improve conditions for these workers. And no doubt such a move would enhance business productivity.

– What was the reaction of Fonterra?

They listened carefully. They have a new CEO, Justin Miller, because the Chilean section of Fonterra now depends on the regional Australia and more in New Zealand.

Miller declined to give any opinion as he will travel to Chile in March or April, but promised to keep us informed, after speaking with management in Chile.

However, I and Brother Oswald, we evaluate primarily that it was a positive meeting, which achieved to state our case very clearly. This seems to be a major advance because we have never been able to have direct contact with the overall direction of Fonterra.

We understand that this is an open door by the IUF, and now our turn to keep it that way.

We also want to express our gratitude to the colleagues of the Rel-UITA for all the work of coordination, and partner Cijifredo Vera, coordinator of the IUF in Chile.