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New agreement averts glass worker strike in Colombia

10 January, 2013Backed with international support from IndustriALL and the United Steelworkers, among others, Colombian affiliate Sintravidricol signed a new 30-month collective agreement for workers at Owens Illinois Peldar on 5 January 2013.

The Sintravidricol agreement with Owens Illinois subsidiary Cristalería Peldar was reached after 54 days of difficult bargaining and only made possible by Colombia’s Ministry of Labour role in compelling top level management to bargain in good faith.

Negotiations began very badly on 13 November 2012 as management attempted to kick out the union arbiters from national centre CUT from supporting Sintravidricol negotiators Pablo Castaño, William Uribe, Alejandro Torres, Manuel Murcia, Mario Orjuela, and Manuel Alonso.

The hard-won agreement includes a 5.5 per cent salary increase in the first year, and increases in medical and other benefits, children’s schooling and further education, an 8 per cent increase in maternity, wedding, life insurance and similar benefits.

US-based glass manufacturing multinational Owens Illinois (O-I) has taken a more aggressive anti-union attitude over recent months and IndustriALL affiliates with members at the company are stepping up cross-border solidarity. This coordination brings together thousands of workers in North and Latin America, Europe and Asia-Pacific.

Recent increased levels of coordination between O-I trade unions has revealed common concerns as the company is taking cost-cutting measures around the world, to the detriment of its workers in terms of labour rights, fair wages and conditions, and safe workplaces. O-I’s workers are also concerned that cutting of jobs, production and research is jeopardizing the company’s market share, giving up its market leader position and so threatening its long-term prospects.

A common concern for O-I workers around the world is the company’s strategy to casualize the workforce, outsourcing permanent jobs to precarious agency labour. The strategy gives the employer more flexibility to hire and fire workers, at the expense of mature systems of industrial relations and stable business performance.

Cristalería Peldar manufactures glass for general household tableware, beer glasses, blood transfusion bottles, flat glass, and window glass.

Parent company Owens Illinois is the world's largest glass container manufacturer and preferred partner for many of the world's leading food and beverage brands. With revenues of US$7.4 billion in 2011, the company is headquartered in Perrysburg, Ohio, USA, and employs more than 24,000 people at 81 plants in 21 countries.