Panama: Workers expect labor court to fulfill its role on SABMiller conflict


A conflict at Cerveceria Nacional SA, owned by SABMiller in Panama led to a general strike that stopped the production and distribution at the British-South African transnational for 18 days in July 2015.

The IUF affiliated Sitrafcorebgascelis requested an arbitration process at the local labour court and submitted its arguments before the court. Alejandro John, General Secretary of Sitrafcorebgascelis told that the union is still waiting for the arbitration tribunal to end and deliver the collective agreement.

The negotiation table between Cervecería Nacional (SABMiller) and the two unions -STICP and Sitrafcorebgascelis - was installed on June 1 2015.

The two unions, which together represent more than 80 percent of the workforce of Cerveceria Nacional decided to strengthen a strategic alliance to negotiate and sign the new agreement together.

The decision was rejected by the transnational which held a closed and intransigent attitude throughout the negotiation process, violating both Panama's labor laws, which allow multiple unions to sign a single agreement with the company, and the ILO Conventions 87 and 98.

In this situation, the unions terminated the conciliation process and proceeded with the declaration of a strike, which broke out on July 10 and passed with the support of more than 90 percent of workers and the solidarity of a vast range of organizations and national and international unions.

After 18 days of strike, during which workers stoically endured the ravages of the transnational brewer and maintained their unity and mobilization capacity, the parties agreed to submit a formal request to the Ministry of Labor to initiate arbitration.

After the submission of allegations clause by clause, the parties now await the decision of the employment tribunal to deliver the new collective agreement.

"It has been a long and rather cumbersome process where the employer has enjoyed the support of the authorities and has sought to maintain the control of the arbitration. However, we are confident that the court feels a very important precedent, listening to the clamor of workers and forcing the company to sign the new agreement with two unions, "said John.

Sitrafcorebgascelis General Secretary also warned about the threats expressed by SABMiller that the company plans massive dismissal of workers once the arbitration process is completed.

"We consider this threat an act of retaliation and we will not allow it to happen. Workers are willing to go out on strike if necessary", added the union leader.

Click the following link for the original Spanish story :