Guatemala: Coke Union STECSA and Coke Bottler FEMSA sign new collective bargaining agreement

from the Coca-Cola Workers Alliance

IUF (Uniting Food, Farm and Hotel Workers Worldwide)

Stecsa2016

[Ed. note – Paul Garver:  This may sound like a routine story abut a contract settlement between a local union and management.  Except for one thing.  The initial creation of the STECSA union in Guatemala City in the 1970s cost the lives of several assassinated Guatemalan union leaders, plus a large-scale protracted global labor solidarity campaign.  Nearly forty years later Coke unions around the world remain engaged in a global coordination through the IUF that has resulted in a flexible and evolving framework of contention and dialogue with the giant corporate Coca-Cola empire.  The Guatemala Coke union has always remained on the IUFs global labor solidarity agenda.  In this case therefore what seems on the surface to be a routine event is actually a further manifestation of a heroic history of workers’ struggle.]

On the night of March 3, after 14 months of difficult negotiations and a suspension of nearly five months of negotiations, the Union of Workers of Embotelladora Central SA (STECSA) and Coca Cola FEMSA reached an agreement and signed the new collective bargaining agreement that will be valid for two years.

On March 2, the two negotiating committees signed an agreement that actually gave way to the completion of this difficult negotiation.

“Solving the conflict and finalizing the negotiation were the most important targets for the new Board of STECSA” Carlos Luch, the General Secretary of STECSA told the IUF Latin America region.

The agreement allowed us to ensure a retroactive wage increase of 4 percent from 1 March 2015 and provided a wage increase of 4 percent from 1 March 2016.

This percentage applies to all items that have economic impact, in that case also with retroactive effect from 1 March 2015.

“While we are not entirely satisfied with the salary adjustment reached, we believe that the agreement consolidates job stability in Central Bottling Company S.A. (Coca Cola FEMSA) and maintains the structure of our collective agreement unchanged guaranteeing the acquired rights” Luch added.

STECSA General Secretary thanked the members for their unconditional support given throughout the duration of the negotiations, and called on them “to continue with that commitment and conviction of struggle.”

He also urged all members to remain alerted “to defend the gains that were achieved through the struggle”.

Historic Victory of Guatemala Coca-Cola Workers

from the Coca-Cola Workers Alliance

IUF (Uniting Food, Farm and Hotel Workers Worldwide)

Guatemala workers have proudly featured in the history of struggle between IUF members and The Coca-Cola Company (TCCC) going back to the 1980’s. Until recently of the three Coca-Cola bottling plants in the country, only one had built solid recognition from FEMSA, the Coca-Cola Latin American bottler. The other two plants were owned and operated by the Schutt family and workers there faced hostility and repression when exercising their basic rights. One of these two plants was unionised but under constant pressure and the other was non-union with all efforts to offer union membership to workers there met with forceful hostility from management.

In 2008 within the ongoing international negotiating forum (the “Atlanta process”) that the IUF secured in 2005 when finally recognized by TCCC, the IUF made clear to TCCC that operating in this environment workers at the two Schutt’s owned plants would be faced with a constant struggle to defend their rights at one plant and secure union membership rights at the other. Following protracted discussions, TCCC purchased the two plants in 2012. With support of the team engaged with TCCC in the “Atlanta process” workers employed at what both became TCCC owned facilities were finally able to exercise their rights to form and join a union.

In the most recently unionised plant, the IUF-affiliated SITRAABASA signed a first collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with FEMSA on January 10, 2015. In the second Coca-Cola acquired plant a new CBA will shortly follow. This will mean that all Coca-Cola workers in Guatemala have union rights and will be protected by a negotiated collective agreement.

IUF general secretary Ron Oswald commented, “This is testament to the determination and the courage of our members in Guatemala to fully secure and exercise their rights. The IUF is proud of our members and of their struggle as well as the role played by both FESTRAS and FELATRAC the Latin American Federation of Coca-Cola Workers.” Oswald went on to explain, “Built on the determination of our members in Guatemala, the framework within which this success was achieved was largely negotiated through the “Atlanta process”, a direct and permanent international union and company engagement. This process included a late August 2014 meeting in Guatemala involving TCCC local and international leadership, our Guatemala affiliates and the IUF international and regional leaderships. Just as in Pakistan previously, the Atlanta process has helped us secure 100% union membership in Coca-Cola bottling operations in Guatemala and a guarantee that all Coca-Cola bottling workers in Guatemala can now exercise their internationally recognized human right to be a union member.”

[Ed. note – Paul Garver – The victory of the Coca-Cola workers in Guatemala is truly a historic one.  In the late 1970s several union leaders at the Coca-Cola bottling plant in Guatemala City were assassinated during the struggle to organize a union.  It required two international solidarity campaigns coordinated by the IUF before Coca-Cola intervened to replace successive murderous and/or corrupt owners of their franchised plant with one who recognized and negotiated with the union in the early 1980s.  It has taken thirty more years to extend effective union recognition to the other two Coke bottling plants in Guatemala outside the capital city.  The struggles of Coke workers not only in Guatemala but in many other countries around the globe forced the Coca-Cola Company to formalize its engagement with the global union IUF in the “Atlanta process” cited by IUF General Secretary Ron Oswald cited above.  This permanent engagement has facilitated union organization and collective bargaining at Coke facilities in scores of countries around the world.  I was very fortunate to have been able to personally participate in this process between 2000 and 2005 as an IUF staffer, and congratulate the Guatemalan workers and the IUF for this latest breakthrough advance for the global working class struggle.]

Guatemalan Aluminum Workers Describe Abuse

Workers at a Ternium factory in Guatemala were fired after they formed a union./Photo courtesy SITRATERNI

Solidarity Center

October 11, 2012—When Emeterio Nach suffered a shoulder injury at his job, he asked his supervisor at the Ternium aluminum processing plant in Villa Nueva, Guatemala, for time off to see his doctor. After the supervisor denied his request, Nach asked again. The supervisor continued to refuse, finally telling Nach he would be fired if he kept asking—and would be fired if he were sick because the factory needed healthy workers.

The 250 workers at the Villa Nueva plant frequently experienced such treatment, leading Hernández, along with his co-workers, to create a union, SITRATERNIUM (Ternium International Guatemala Worker’s Union). They filed for registration of organization in March with the Ministry of Labor.

As a result, the company immediately fired dozens of workers, including Nach. The firings violate Guatemalan labor code (Article 209) as well as international labor standards relating to freedom of association and the right to unionize.

Continue reading

Oppose the Columbia FTA

Murder and Impunity of Colombian Trade Unionists

Prepared by USLEAP, June 2011

I. Colombia Remains the Most Dangerous Country to be a Trade   Unionist

51 unionists were assassinated in 2010.

47 union members were killed in Colombia in 2009.

338 unionists received death threats, 35 were forcibly displaced, 16 were harassed, 34 were

arbitrarily detained, and 7 disappeared in 2010.1

21 unionists survived attempts on their lives in 2010. Continue reading

Guatemala’s Killing Fields

Another Banana Union Leader Assassinated in Guatemala

by Paul Garver

This year Guatemala is overtaking Colombia in the contest for killing the most advocates of rights for workers and peasants.

On May 26, Joel Hernandez Godoy, finance secretary of the banana workers union SITRABI, was shot dead by a gunman on motorcycle while driving to the union headquarters in the town of Morales.

This brutal assassination follows the April 10 murder of SITRABI officer Oscar  Humberto Vasquez, killed by two men on a motorcycle in Nueva Chiriqui, Morales.

Continue reading

USLEAP Releases Report on Worker Rights Under New Guatemalan Government

USLEAP released a full report on its conclusions from a fact-finding mission to Guatemala in July. The report details the status of worker rights under the new government of Alvaro Colom. Initial expectations that the change of government would open a new era for the ability of workers to exercise their basic rights are fading fast, seven months after the new administration took office in January 2008, according to Guatemalan labor union leaders.   A notable rise in violence against trade unionists has been accompanied by near total impunity as well as the government’s failure to address wide-spread worker rights violations.   Most concerning for U.S. policy makers and worker rights supporters, according to the report, the mission found strong evidence that U.S. policy and leverage for supporting worker rights in Guatemala has weakened significantly with the passage of the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA).

Continue reading