(Translated by Steve Fake, CSN Volunteer Translator)
Author: Labor Information Agency (Agencia de Información Laboral- ENS)
Author email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Publication Date: 10/23/2015
Since October 13, the workers at the Goodyear plant in Yumbo in the Valle del Cauca have been engaged in a work stoppage. The action is an outgrowth of the strike called by the union in response to the intransigence of this multinational in the face of the workers’ list of demands.
For 22 years, Goodyear-Colombia enjoyed a state of labor peace. Goodyear maintained a dialogue with the union and negotiated collective bargaining agreements every 2 to 5 years. But this time, Goodyear changed that dynamic and refused to address the key points of the statement submitted to it by SINTRAINCAPLA. SINTRAINCAPLA is a national union branch of the rubber and plastics industry that represents 174 of the 245 Goodyear plant workers.
“Goodyear is more interested in imposing a disastrous counter-proposal than in providing a solution to the needs of their workers, which is why we were obliged to strike after exhausting the deadline and the extension for concluding direct negotiations,” said Julio César Molina, president of SINTRAINCAPLA. The strike was approved in a vote by almost 100% of the unionized workers.
However, the union said that even in the midst of the strike it is ready to discuss and reach an agreement allowing the resumption of production at the plant in Yumbo. But so far the company has not indicated any interest in making concessions, despite the mediation offered by the Deputy Minister of Labor, Enrique Borda, and the regional office of the Labor Ministry in El Valle.
Arguments by the company for their refusal to negotiate are scarce, Molina said, because it is a booming business that would not be affected by meeting the demands submitted by the workers.
Indeed, after the closure of the plant owned by the French multinational Michellin last year, which had also been located in Valle del Cauca, Goodyear was the only tire producer in Colombia. According to the president of SINTRAINCAPLA, this has benefitted Goodyear because it allowed the corporation to gain greater market share in the country.
The key points of the demands that the company has refused to negotiate relate to the amount of the salary increase, which Goodyear refuses to raise to 4.5%; increased benefits to improve the welfare of workers and their families; and better job security by enhancing the compensation packages provided when the company wants to layoff workers.
This last point is related to Goodyear’s plan to build a plant in Mexico to produce 6 million tires a year, which, according to Molina, is raising fears that the new plant will supplant production in Colombia, much as happened to Michellin workers, who lost their jobs because of the closure of the plant. In fact, the production orders that Goodyear was unable to fulfill because of the strike are being supplied by the production plant in Brazil.
Another grievance advanced by the union concerns the intention of Goodyear to establish distinctions between workers regarding traditional labor guarantees. “There is a group of temp workers that should be formally hired, but Goodyear wants to employ them under low wage conditions, and to give them fewer benefits than the plant workers receive – and they want the union to endorse this. And we cannot endorse the creation of tiers in which workers who perform the same functions have different incomes,” said Molina.
The union leader reported that they remain firm in continuing the strike and retain control of the Yumbo plant. The workers are maintaining the facilities and equipment so that the strike remains within legal channels. Meanwhile, the union has called upon the public and trade unions and social organizations to provide support for their cause.