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Bayer workers in Latin America look to expand and strengthen their network

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2 July, 2021Bayer union leaders from across Latin America and the Caribbean have agreed to work together to strengthen their network and bring in workers from other countries in the region.

During an online meeting on 11 June, participants spoke about Bayer's situation at the global and regional levels, underscoring that, out of the company's three global sectors, both pharmaceuticals and consumer health were doing very well. They explained that Bayer had teamed up with Germany company CureVac to develop a COVID-19 vaccine, which it would be producing on a large scale once it had obtained approval from the relevant authorities.

The company's crop science arm, however, was encountering difficulties following the recent merger with Monsanto. Bayer was the only company in the United States – out of some 95 companies operating in the field in the country – to be facing environmental protection lawsuits.

Within the region, union leaders from Brazil explained that the company had four main business units in the country, and around 90% of Bayer's factory workers in Brazil are union members. The unions concerned are all part of CNQ-CUT, which is an affiliate of IndustriALL Global Union.

They said that they had faced problems following the merger, with attempts to cut jobs and to stifle social dialogue. This was because the two companies had very different ways of dealing with union representation. Another issue to resolve was the disparities between the profits and wages at different plants.

Michael Wolters attended the meeting on behalf of German union IG BCE and the chair of the Bayer works council in Germany. He said that IG BCE stood ready to work with the network and to serve as a liaison with the parent company to address any problems encountered in the region.

There is a long history of cooperation within the global network of Bayer unions, particularly between the Latin American unions and IG BCE.

The participants agreed to work together to strengthen their network and bring in workers from other countries in the region. They appointed Alfredo Santos as the new coordinator of the Bayer network and agreed to map out Bayer's plants across the region and gather more information about them.

They also undertook to take part in the meetings of IndustriALL's regional manufacturing macro sector and the pharmaceutical and chemicals sector, and to hold another meeting of the regional network of Bayer workers in the second half of 2021 or the first quarter of 2022.

IndustriALL's deputy regional secretary, Cristian Alejandro Valerio, said that:

"Company networks are a key tool that workers in the region can use to counter the force of global capitalism, especially given the major changes taking place in the sector and in the world of work. In this climate, it is great news that we have been able to reactivate the regional network of such a major multinational company."