Panama: Gross Violations of Workers’ Rights at SAB Miller


Voices and faces of SITRAFCOREBGASCELIS ;Retained, suspended and fired workers won’t back down

On May 4, dozens of workers members of the Industrial Union of Soft Drink, Beverage, Soda, Beer, Liquor and Similar Beverage Production and Distribution Workers (SITRAFCOREBGASCELIS) were summoned by managers of Cervecería Nacional (SABMiller) and pressured to sign a veiled dismissal in the form of a “mutual agreement.” Faced with the workers’ negative reaction, the British-South African multinational corporation unleashed its repression, but failed to silence their voices.

Fausto Romero- Union member of Las Sabanas Distribution Center

I got to the company after a long and exhausting workday and the administrative manager, Humberto Castillo, handed me a document telling me to sign it. It was a mutually agreed dismissal. When I told him I had never asked to leave the company, Castillo presented me with a dismissal letter. Members of the administrative staff came over and started watching me as if I were a criminal and then escorted me outside the facilities. They claim the dismissals are due to a personnel restructuring, but we know that what they’re really trying to do is destroy the union and force workers to join a pro-management union that exists in the company.

Juan Mojica- Union member of Las Sabanas Distribution Center

I showed up at the management office confident that they couldn’t do anything to me because I was protected by union privileges. However, that didn’t matter to the company, and they fired me in open violation of labor laws. What’s happening is absurd. They’re killing us at work, but in the end they pocket the wealth and we’re left with abuse and suffering. We’re going to continue fighting until we achieve the reinstatement of all the workers who were fired.

Jose Rodriguez - Las Sabanas union representative

The real goal of Cervecería Nacional (SABMiller) was to strike a deathblow to the union by firing 130 to 160 union members. They didn’t get away with it because we acted immediately and stepped in to advice the workers on how to handle the situation. In the end, some 60 workers were fired and another 80 were suspended for three days without pay, nationwide.

Jonathan Velez - SITRAFCOREBGASCELIS education secretary

I was suspended twice in less than two weeks for demanding that management respect my right as a union leader to have access to the Penonomé and Chitré Distribution Centers. The company obviously didn’t want us advising our members when they tried to fool them with their “mutual agreement” proposal. It’s also an attempt to intimidate workers to make us back down and give up the struggle. They’re not going to get away with it because we’re going to continue fighting, stronger and more committed than ever. We know we can count on our members’ support and the decisive backing of the IUF and all its affiliates from across Latin America.