On 8 October, IndustriALL affiliate Sintracarcol began a week of protests against Cartón de Colombia S.A., owned by multinational Smurfit Kappa, in a response to the firing of a number of workers, as well as other anti-union actions.
Sintracarcol set up camp outside the company’s facilities in Medellin, Colombia, until 13 October. The union was protesting against the firm’s violations of international employment standards at its plants across Colombia, particularly those in Medellin, Barranquilla, Bogotá and Cali.
The union took action after union leader Yair Giraldo and a number of other workers were unfairly dismissed.
“I’m a victim of union-bashing,” said Giraldo. “Smurfit Kappa is playing a brutal game. I was cornered by the head of Human Resources and his supervisors, wanting to discuss union matters.
“I told them that such discussions have to be held according to the collective agreement. After that, they started proceedings to have my union protections rescinded, the court ruled in their favour, and I was fired.”
The company does not comply with or properly implement the provisions of the collective bargaining agreements. Company management has put huge amounts of pressure on workers in an attempt to stop them from joining the union of their choice.
Union members are systematically denied union leave to attend meetings and other union business. And union leaders have been offered money and other benefits to get them to leave the union or in return for information or legal action.
In a letter to Mr Anthony P. J. Smurfit, CEO of Smurfit Kappa Group, Valter Sanches, IndustriALL’s general secretary, condemns the company’s violations of fundamental union rights:
“I call on your office to urgently address the misconduct of Smurfit Kappa’s management team in Colombia. Your company’s actions constitute systematic union-bashing against our members.
“I urge you to work with Sintracarcol to find a fair solution and to build stronger industrial relations with Cartón de Colombia.“