On 8 March 2004 a Labour Court Judge ruled against the decision by Coca Cola bottling company Embotelladoras de Santander S.A. to sack RAFAEL CARVAJAL PEÑARANDA, a SINALTRAINAL leader and Coca Cola worker in Cúcuta.
RAFAEL CARVAJAL has been the victim of a fierce persecution by management. He has been unjustly suspended from his work contract several times. He suffered an armed attempt on his life by a guard inside the plant. When another SINALTRAINAL leader JORGE LEAL was kidnapped by paramilitaries, they warned Rafael Carvajal that he would be silenced if he continued denouncing Coca Cola. In December 2003 presumed paramilitaries arrived at Rafael’s home and threatened that they would assassinate his family if he did not turn down his complaints against the corporation – that same day the son of national SINALTRAINAL President JAVIER CORREA was kidnapped in Bucaramanga.
The same day that the Judge announced his decision in Cúcuta, the Coca Cola bottler in Barranquilla gave notice of its decision to sack union leader JOAQUIN CONSUEGRA, and attended the courts seeking official approval to implement the decision.
Next day, 9 March 2004, the administration of the plants in Cúcuta and Cartagena trapped workers in the bottling plants as a way of pressuring them to renounce their employment contracts in exchange for a small economic payment. This took place under the blackmail of a ruling by the Minister of Social Protection, which authorized firing the workers in those bottling plants where the company has illegally shut its production lines.
Coca-Cola has been using this form of aggression against workers since 2000. A Colombian judge and the Constitutional Court confirmed a few days ago that the company committed the crime of illegally constraining workers, and the company is now forced to pay out the salaries and re-hire the workers who were pressured and blackmailed to quit their jobs at the bottling plant in Medellin.
These events are happening as SINALTRAINAL negotiates with the bottling plants of Coca-Cola that are owned by Panamco Colombia S.A. (since 23 February 2004). With these acts, the company is looking to ferment terror to force the workers from their jobs if they do not succeed in forcing them to resign. On the contrary, we are demanding that the company respect the ruling by the Judge of the Republic on the lawsuit (tutela) we filed and that it abides by the Collective Bargaining contract we have negotiated, which obligates the company to relocate workers to other posts and retrain them.
Then, at about 10 a.m. on 11 March 2004 JHON ALEXANDER GARCIA, the son of LUIS EDUARDO GARCIA*, was tackled by an unknown man and woman carrying black knapsacks. He was travelling to his home in Bucaramanga in an urban transport bus, when the unknown persons sent him the following text message: "DOG YOU ARE THE SON OF A SON OF A BITCH TRADE UNIONIST", and started to shove him around. He [the male assailant] put his hand into the knapsack motioning to bring out a gun. JHON’s immediate reaction was to jump out of the moving bus, taking advantage of the open door, and he desperately ran off to save his life.
[* Luis Eduardo toured the UK and Ireland in November 2003. He works for Coca Cola in Bucaramanga.]
The list of victims of persecution in Coca Cola’s bottling plants in Colombia is interminable and will keep on growing. This is the urgent reason for the solidarity and the support of the world campaign against Coca Cola, until the multinational stops its violent actions, respects the human rights of its workers and until we obtain truth, justice and integral reparations.
NO MORE REPRESSION IN COCA COLA, ENOUGH ALREADY, AGAINST IMPUNITY - SINALTRAINAL DEMANDS JUSTICE
(From reports by SINALTRAINAL 8, 9 and 11 March 2004, and supplementing translations by US Killercoke Campaign)
We ask that you send letters of protest directed at JUAN MANUEL ARBELAEZ Director de Recursos Humanos de Panamco Colombia S.A. and Coca-Cola Femsa, S.A. by fax 011-571-401-1687, with a copy to SINALTRAINAL 011-571-2455325.
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No More Coke Vending at Carleton College!
After nearly four hours of presentations, discussion and intense debate, the Carleton (College) Student Assn. voted 12 to 8 to terminate its vending contract with Coca-Cola, which means the removal of 42 Coke machines from this prestigious campus of 2,000. It happened Monday evening, March 8, 2004, before several hundred people — one of the largest audiences for such an event in years on the Northfield Minnesota campus.
The Coca-Cola Co. sent Corporate Media Relations Issues Director Lori Billingsley from its headquarters in Atlanta, along with Rafael Fernandez Quiros, Director of Communications in Latin America from Mexico City, and three representatives of Coca-Cola Enterprises, Coke's largest bottler. Representing SINALTRAINAL's position was Campaign to Stop Killer Coke Director Ray Rogers.
Rogers emphasized that student leaders don't often have the opportunity to make decisions that can have a profound impact on stopping murder, kidnapping, torture and other human rights violations. Two weeks earlier, SINALTRAINAL leader Luis Adolfo Cardona, exiled in the United States since 2002, addressed the student association and won the respect and admiration of those who heard him. In January, the student association had decided to renew its multi-year contract with Coke, but had not yet signed it because the student governmant had to choose from two options that Coke offered. Mike Schorsch a Carleton senior, heard about the Campaign to Stop Killer Coke and took immediate action to initiate a movement to terminate Coke's exclusive contract to sell beverages in vending machines on the campus. Hundreds of students signed a petition. Their efforts and the remarkable tenacity of some student association senators during the discussion and debate led to this tremendous, hard-fought victory. Coca-Cola clearly invested a lot of effort to retain the Carleton contract, but justice prevailed and Coca-Cola was sent another strong message to clean up its act in Colombia.
Student activists on many campuses in the U.S., Canada, Ireland and elsewhere are fighting to rescind, not renew or not consider contracts between their colleges and Coca-Cola. We expect to report on more such victories soon.
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