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Workers create union network in Latin America’s glass sector

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29 September, 2021The second regional meeting of the glass sector was held online on 22 September, with participation of leaders from IndustriALL affiliates in Peru, Colombia, Brazil, Chile and Argentina. Aiming to promote solidarity, organizing and better union presence in the glass sector in Latin America, participants agreed to launch a regional glass network and continue regular information exchanges.

According to the International Labour Organization, the pandemic has led to the loss of 255 million jobs, as well as a significant deterioration of workers’ rights. The International Trade Union Confederation points out that many countries violated the right to strike and excluded workers from the right to crate and join trade unions. 

Covid has also brought increased digitalisation and automation in the glass industry, and even though the process directly affects workers, their opinion is often ignored.

Alexander Ivanou, IndustriALL materials industries officer, said:

"In the light of the current transformation processes in the glass industry and the need to reduce carbon emissions, there is a risk, as Covid has demonstrated, that workers' rights will be side-lined. This is unacceptable; workers' rights and interests cannot be put aside."

Participants exchanged experiences from their respective countries. Just as on the global level, South American countries have witnessed a favourable growth in the glass sector, especially in the glass packaging industry. Yet at the same time many report problems with health and safety, like exposure to heat and glass dust, but also denial of the recognition of occupational diseases due to loopholes in the legislation in Brazil and Colombia.

The delegates from Peru reported the problem of precarious employment at O-I Peru, where after five years temporary workers can become permanent, but the company dismisses and reemploys them after a break not to fulfil their obligation.

Delegates from Brazil, Peru and Colombia reported of constant anti-union attitudes, hindrances to collective bargaining and unfair practices from multinationals that operate in the region.

Even though the sector has been hit by the pandemic, in Argentina workers reported about their efforts to maintain jobs and safety conditions through the joint work in tripartite committees of employers, workers and the government.

Alejandro Valerio, deputy regional secretary, said:

"This was a good meeting. With important changes are coming in the industry at a global level and incessant attacks on labour rights, it is important to strengthen ties, exchange information and form networks between unions in the region representing glass workers."