A collective agreement was signed in the early morning of Thursday, December 19, between the IUF’s Guatemalan affiliate STECSA, which organizes workers at the Embotelladora Central Coca-Cola plant, and Coke’s regional bottler PANAMCO. The agreement comes at the close of a prolonged dispute in the course of which many IUF affiliates, at the request of the secretariat, sent messages to the company urging good faith negotiations. The Latin American regional secretariat (REL-UITA) and the IUF general secretariat played an active role in facilitating a negotiated solution to the conflict.
The agreement signed between STECSA and EMBOCEN (the Panamco Coke bottler in Guatemala City) provides for two successive collective bargaining agreements, one covering the period from 1 March 2001 through the end of February 2003, and another covering the period from 1 March 2003 through the end of February 2005.
General wage increases are 3% effective 1 March 2001, 4% on 1 March 2002, 5% on 1 March 2003 and 6% on 1 March 2004. Additional monthly bonus payments will compensate for wages frozen during the 22 month long process of negotiations.
Many difficult issues were settled by compromises that left intact the historic gains negotiated by the union in decades of struggle, while providing the company with some opportunities to increase efficiencies. The union and company will work together to establish more efficient distribution routes, while retaining the principle of 2 helpers for each driver. A relatively small number of jobs will be reduced by attrition or early retirement, while other employees will be redeployed to more productive activities. Other positions will be converted from fixed contracts into permanent jobs.
On a crucial issue relating to trade union rights, the union retained full paid union leave for the seven elected executive committee members, while members of the consultative committee will share 230 hours per month of paid union leave. A joint labor-management committee will continue to meet on a regular basis to resolve all outstanding issues, with a joint commitment to expedite decision making.
On behalf of STECSA, José David Morales, general secretary of the IUF-affiliated food workers’ federation FESTRAS, expresses, “our sincere gratitude for so much valuable and unconditional support provided for our struggle. We would have liked to share the signing with all of you, because once again it was shown that with unity and national and international solidarity, the goals of the Working Class can be advanced. At the same time we would like to extend these thanks to all the organisations and persons who supported us, even while for obvious reasons we were not able to directly communicate.”