AmBev cracks down on new union; Thirteen unionized workers suspended

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On July 2, just eleven days after the National Union of Sales Workers of Compañía Cervecera AmBev Perú SAC (SITRAMBEVSAC) was formed, management suspended nine union members and four leaders for six days, accusing them of irregularities in beer sales, based on an audit conducted on May 25.

For Homero Zumaran, SITRAMBEVSAC general secretary, the company suspended them in an attempt to intimidate all unionized workers. “It’s no coincidence that just a few days after the resolution to acknowledge our union is issued the company discovers that we have committed a serious infraction. And, oh, surprise!, the only ones found at fault are workers who are in the union.”

Ten days ago the sales manager, Carlos Ángulo, and the supervisors were questioning workers, calling them in to meetings where they were invited to chat over a beer. “What they were really doing was trying to get information on the union,” Carlos Huapaya, assistant general secretary, said.

“They were trying to find out who the leaders were. What they did last week was conduct an operation. On Monday, July 2, we showed up to work like any other day, and were taken by surprise when management separated 13 of us from the rest and read us the results of an audit that had been conducted back in May,” the leaders said.

“We think this is a pretext, and what they’re really trying to do is get rid of our union. Isn’t it strange that after so many weeks they suddenly realized there were problems? When we process sales every day and neither the supervisor nor the manager have ever made any observations? They operate the system and verify orders, and when promotional items are returned we hand everything over to them in an envelope and they check the contents. There’s no way we can make a mistake because they control everything.”

According to the audit, the workers “presumably” granted certain customers more Brahma beer discounts than they were entitled to, and some promotional strips are missing. The workers deny the charges saying that before they grant a discount they ask for authorization from the sales manager or their supervisor, who authorize it orally. “That’s how it’s always been for all sales workers; the only thing that sets suspended workers apart is union membership,” Huapaya said.

SITRAMBEVSAC is formed by 62 workers whose seniority in Compañía Cervecera AmBev Perú SAC ranges from a year and a half to nine years.

Julio Falla, president of the National Federation of Food, Beverage and Related Industry Workers (FNT-CGTP-ABA), described the suspension of the 13 workers as an “antiunion action, as it’s no coincidence that only members of the new union were affected.”

“The company fears that the union will grow and join forces with the production workers’ union. We can’t forget that AmBev has not distributed profits with its workers since it began operating in Peru,” he said.

FNT-CGTP-ABA is supporting the suspended workers, and has met with the labor vice-minister, Pablo Checa, who, as soon as he was notified of this arbitrary action, ordered an on-site inspection to find out what happened. The workers are scheduled to present their defense on Monday, July 9.

“AmBev says an audit was conducted. The question is if that audit included all workers or only those who are members of the union. As the Federation that represents these workers, we will stand by them throughout any legal proceedings they have to face, and we are confident that we will, in turn, have the support of our international organization,” Falla said.

FNT-CGTP-ABA appealed to the IUF for support in making AmBev’s antiunion policy in Peru known around the world.

“We need to exert political pressure. These gentlemen are bent on doing away with this new union. It’s a trial by fire. But the workers are facing this together,” Falla underlined.

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