[Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator]
COCA-COLA’s debt to the world’s working class includes twelve labor leaders murdered in Colombia, and many more threatened, displaced and hunted down for being members of a labor union. The company continues stealing water, making massive layoffs, violating labor laws and court orders, and paramilitarizing its plants in order to intimidate a class of decent workers who went on a hunger strike yesterday, Monday, in the Plaza de Bolívar in Bogotá.
Coca Cola Workers Go On A Hunger Strike
Coca Cola Monday, April 13, 2015 at 5:57 p.m.
URGENT SOLIDARITY WITH COCA COLA WORKERS.
Since 2:00 p.m., April 13, 2015, workers at this multinational who are members of Sinaltrainal (national food and beverage trade union in Colombia) have called a Hunger Strike in the Plaza de Bolívar in Bogotá, Colombia. They demand that Colombian authorities put together a national conference including Sinaltrainal and Coca Cola, to reach solutions in the following cases:
In Barrancabermeja, Coca Cola hired Carelis Cadavid, wife of the well-known paramilitary commander, Wilfred Martínez “alias Gavilán” (“Hawk”) who carried out the attack on Coca Cola’s infrastructure, and who threatened, displaced, and falsely accused the leaders of Sinaltrainal. Because of all this, the Attorney General opened an investigation for the crimes of criminal conspiracy and alleged terrorism.
Miguel Angel García Barbosa worked at Coca Cola Barrancabermeja in February of 2015 although there was a warrant for his arrest after he was charged with belonging to the criminal gang known as Los Canoeros (The Canoeists). That’s not all: His assignment was to hunt down the leaders of Sinaltrainal.
Coca Cola refuses to relocate to other cities the workers who have been threatened and displaced along with their families, obliging them to work at the same site where they received the threats, thus putting their lives at risk.
In Bucaramanga, Coca Cola hired Privada Vise, a private security company, as a riot squad. They carry shields and carry out military maneuvers to confront any labor protest and intimidate the workers. Added to this militaristic policy of the multinational, is what happened at the plant in Medellín, where National Police armored cars and armored personnel carriers came into the plant to suppress the subcontracted workers who protested the pressures, the job insecurity, and the firing of one of their co-workers because he joined Sinaltrainal. All of the workers who joined the union were fired.
More than 30 workers have been criminally charged after criminal complaints by Coca Cola. They used the law inappropriately and fomented frame-ups, carrying out an anti-union strategy against the workers who filed complaints, protested, and insisted on their rights. They have urged the judges to set asides the statutes and find Sinaltrainal’s branch offices to be illegal.
Amcor, Eficacia, Proservis, FL Colombia S.A.S., Sodexo, Atemcon, and Imbera are all shell companies used by Coca Cola to subcontract more than 70% of their workers. Any who join unions are fired or they use a legal process to make their membership illegal. Other workers were rounded up by the high-level managers of Coca Cola to be pressured into quitting the union, as happened in the plant in Cali on August 6, 2014. Coca Cola flagrantly violates the right to unionize.
Placing our lives in danger, Coca Cola published pamphlets that had photographs of the workers and their families, stigmatizing our protest as vandalism and claiming supposed damages to private property.
In Bogotá, Coca Cola was punished for contaminating the Capellanía wetland and they refused to pay the Capital District $46 billion pesos (approximately USD$23 million) for water and sewer service. What is more, they appropriated water sources in the Calera Cundinamarca.
At the beginning of this year, Coca Cola started operating a bottling plant that it installed in Tocancipá. It will consume 1,680,000 cubic meters [1,680,000,000 liters] of water, which represents 68.58% of the needs of the whole municipality. This literally means that the multinational is sucking up the water belonging to the people of Tocancipá. Since the multinational needs to be sure that it has enough water for its production, it has decided to drill wells that are 800 meters deep, regardless of the damage that that will create.
This bottling plant will employ approximately 150 workers and will result in the closing of the plant in Fontibón (Bogotá), leaving hundreds of workers unemployed and destitute.
Coca Cola fails to provide for the health and safety of workers. Hundreds of workers have been sickened by the poor conditions at their work sites. Others have died, crushed by machines or by distribution trucks, and many have suffered work accidents, as happened to Simón Vega Henao, who was injured and had to go on a hunger strike to make Coca Cola take responsibility for his condition.
Coca Cola forcibly removes the leaders of Sinaltrainal from their work sites and refuses to comply when their reinstatement is ordered by the courts.
Coca Cola violates the collective bargaining agreement and refuses to allows union meetings, obstructing the workers’ freedom to organize.
We have been the victims of twelve murders, of unjust imprisonments, of 68 death threats, attacks on the lives of workers and their families, 54 displacements and several people have had to go into exile after surviving attacks and escaping from kidnapping. Paramilitaries barged into the plant in Carepa and forced the workers to resign from Sinaltrainal. After that they burned down the union office and stole equipment and files. The magazine Cambio on February 8, 1999, reported meetings between officials at the Coca Cola bottling plants and paramilitary commanders. In spite of that, up to now the paramilitaries who are under the Justice and Peace law have not reported the lengths to which the multinational has gone in its commitment in the Colombian conflict.
For Life and the Freedom to Organize, Coca Cola Workers Go On a Hunger Strike
SINALTRAINAL . . . Present!
Colombia, April 13-17, 2015
And in Fuenlabrada and Colloto-Asturias?