Coca-Cola workers affiliated with the Sinaltrainal union are currently gathering in the center of Bogotá to protest unjust working conditions and serious human rights violations. The protest occurs shortly after the four year anniversary of the Labor Action Plan, a document intended to better labor rights in the country but that has not been upheld. Unionists across different sectors of the Colombian workforce continue to risk their lives as they demand justice. The original article in Spanish can be found here.
URGENT SOLIDARITY WITH THE COCA-COLA WORKERS. As of 2PM on April 13, 2015, workers who are members of Sinaltrainal and are at the service of this multinational company, have declared a Hunger Strike in the Bolivar Plaza of Bogotá, demanding that the Colombian authorities call a national roundtable with participation from Sinaltrainal and Coca-Cola to solve the following cases: In Barrancabermeja, Coca-Cola contracted Carelis Cadavid, the wife of the renowned paramilitary boss Wilfred Martínez, alias “Gavilán”, orchestrator of the attack against Coca-Cola’s infrastructure who threatened, displaced, and falsely accused Sinaltrainal leaders. Due to those accusations, the Attorney General opened an investigation into conspiracies to commit crimes and, presumably, terrorism.
Miguel Ángel García Barbosa, worked for Coca-Cola in Barrancabermeja and had a warrant out for his arrest for belonging to the criminal gang “Los Canoeros” and being tasked with following Sinaltrainal leaders. Coca-Cola refuses to resettle threatened workers who were displaced with their families to other cities, but instead forces them to work in the same sites where they received the threats, putting their lives at risk.
In Bucaramanga, Coca-Cola assembled Privada Visa security as anti-riot forces who wore shields and practiced military maneuvers to face the union protest and intimidate workers. The company’s militaristic policy was also seen in an incident at the Medellín plant, where armored cars and tanks from the National Police entered to suppress subcontracted workers who were protesting against workplace pressures and dangers and the firing of one of their coworkers who was affiliated with Sinaltrainal. The situation resulted in the firing of every unionized worker.
More than thirty workers have been falsely accused and prosecuted for criminal accusations by Coca-Cola. The company, who improperly uses the law and manipulates circumstances, executes their anti-union strategy against workers who denounce, protest, and reclaim their rights. They have asked judges to revoke the status and make certain branches of Sinaltrainal illegal.
Amcor, Eficacia, Proservis, FL Colombia S.A.S., Sodexo, Atemcon, and Imbera are all companies Coca-Cola uses as a facade to subcontract over 70% of their workers. Whoever unionizes is fired or their memberships are declared illegal through judicial processes. Other workers were brought together under Coca-Cola’s direction and pressured to renounce the union. Such was the case in Cali’s plant on August 6, 2014. Coca-Cola notoriously violates union freedoms.
Risking our lives, Coca-Cola published banners and photographs of workers and their families, stigmatizing our protest as barbaric and accusing us of supposed damage to private property.
In Bogotá, Coca-Cola was penalized for contaminating the Capellanía wetlands. They refused to pay the Capital District $46 billion pesos (almost $20 million USD) for sewage and water utilities. Furthermore they have appropriated water sources in Capellanía limestone quarry.
At the start of this year, Coca-Cola began operating in the bottling plant they installed in Tocancipá where they consume 1,680,000 cubic meters of water, a figure which represents 68.5% of the municipality’s needs. This means that the multinational company is literally sucking water away from the citizens of Tocanipá. Because Coca-Cola needs to guarantee water for their production, they have announced the excavation of wells 800 meters deep, without caring about the harm it will cause.
This bottling plant will function with approximately 150 workers and will leave hundreds of other workers, who worked in the Fontibón plant in Bogotá until its closing, without employment and support.
Coca-Cola does not guarantee health nor safety in the workplace. Hundreds of laborers are sick from poor working conditions and others have been killed, flattened by machinery or distribution trucks. Many have suffered workplace accidents, like Simón Vega Henao, who is now disabled and has had to declare a hunger strike for Coca-Cola to respond to his health needs. Coca-Cola removes Sinaltrainal leaders from their labor force and refuses to comply with reinstating them, as has been ordered by judges.
Coca-Cola violates the Collective Bargaining Agreement, denying union permits and obstructing union freedoms.
We are the victims of 12 assassinations, unjust imprisonment, 68 death threats, attacks against the lives of workers and their families, 54 displacements, and various exiles after surviving attacks and escaping kidnapping. Paramilitaries entered the Carepa Plant and forced workers to renounce Sinaltrainal, later burning the union’s headquarters and stealing belongings and files. On February 8, 1999, the magazine “Cambio” reported on meetings held between officials of Coca-Cola’s bottling plants and paramilitary commanders. However, to date, the [paramilitary] beneficiaries of the Justice and Peace Law have not indicated how deep this multinational company’s involvement in the Colombian conflict is.
For the Life and Liberty of the Union, Coca-Cola Workers are on a Hunger Strike
Colombia, April 13-17, 2015.