Rank-and-file candidates win election in Coca-Cola plant in Buenos Aires

April 29, 2013

Thursday, 25 April 2013

On April 21 and 22, the election for the shop stewards committee at the Coca-Cola plant in Pompeya, Buenos Aires city, took place. The rank-and-file list, called Lista Marrón (Brown List) was backed by 43% of the workforce in a 93% turn out. The Lista Verde (Green List), backed by the union leadership, came second, and a split from the Green List came third. The plant has 609 workers and we spoke with two members of the newly elected shop stewards committee.

Oscar Zunzunegui explained how they won the election. “The Lista Marrón won because the election took place in a climate of discontent in the plant. On the one hand, salaries have not increased for a year, and inflation is making itself felt. On the other hand, the additional tax on salaries is reducing our take home pay. There are three more reasons for this result: firstly, our gains are being undermined while the bosses are cutting costs and are investing millions in front of our eyes. Secondly, the former shop stewards committee – aligned with the Union Sutiaga (under the control of CGT leader Hugo Moyano) – was divided and split into two lists. Workers had been demanding that the union call assemblies so they could discuss and participate, and for the union to listen to their demands and take into account their needs in the collective agreement negotiations. None of these things happened. This situation was generating discontent and anger among the rank and file. Thirdly, an agreement reached in the 1990s at a company level by which we are obliged to work on bank holidays and at a lower rate, was challenged by the workforce. I would say that all these factors contributed to workers voting for our list. Our list not only put forward a programme that defends workers’ rights but has also condemned the pro-management policies of the trade union leaders. Our list is known among workers for defending workers’ rights and for acting in a consistent fashion; as a result many workers trusted us and supported us as has been shown by the election results. We obtained 70 votes more than the bureaucracy and 100 votes more than the list that had split from the bureaucracy. The election shows that there is a need for change for the better and workers think that we represent that change.

Pablo Silvestri told us that the ‘Lista Marrón’ is a workers’ rank-and-file trade union current, which is anti-bureaucratic and opposed to the bosses, and has been organised inside the factory for six years now. It is composed of some militants of the PTS, but mainly of independent workers, with whom we come together to give an answer to the problems we are facing in our factory. The Lista Marrón was born out of the struggles inside our factory over recent years. Most of us played a role in the reorganisation of the plant; we have won control of the shop stewards committee and there has been an increase in trade union militancy. We are very proud of this historic battle. We were an active and combative opposition whilst the ‘official list’ was in power. During the last few years, the relatively good agreements negotiated by the trade union leaders contributed to the Lista Verde keeping control. Nevertheless, we had always managed to get around 200 votes, which was encouraging.

Our history has been linked to the defence of the most oppressed group of workers within the factory, i.e. those who are on temporary contracts or who are outsourced workers like the cleaners. One of our demands is for their incorporation into the permanent staff within the same agreement.

The candidates of the Lista Marrón that have just won the elections are activists in the Agrupación Marrón (Brown Current). At the beginning it was only few of us, but as time went by we managed to organise more brothers and sisters representing different shifts and sections in our factory. The truth is that neither the trade union leaders nor the former delegates had any answers to the problems of the workforce. Anger was mounting and we started to receive the support and sympathy of sections of workers who hadn’t voted for us previously. In a previous election we lost in one department by only three votes. In this election, without including the seven candidates who were elected, more than 30 brothers and sisters campaigned for the list inside the plant. The day of the election we were prepared for the possibility of election fraud. The increase in our vote constitutes a breakthrough by our current and, without doubt, opens up the possibility of winning more workers to our ranks.
By winning the shop stewards committee, whose mandate will start on Thursday, 2 May 2013, we set ourselves the task of putting in place a trade union rank-and-file organisation that defends and supports all our colleagues’ claims: to unite all sectors in our factory; to call assemblies so all workers can participate in the decisions; and to fulfil our mandate.

Translated by Alejandra Ríos