“My name is Jose Maria Guerrero, delegate of the union section of CGT in pacificadora Butrón. I was fired. We started in June-July of last year a couple of colleagues to claim [mejoras] in the working conditions we were in. My boss’s response: this is what it is. If you like it, fine; if not, you’re on the street.”
This is how the interview that Público did in Brussels begins –and that can be seen on video in this piece– who could be called a trade unionist by accident –he was out of necessity, to obtain labor improvements– Guerrero, who went to one of the offices of the Parliament of the Union to talk about the problems of the company where he worked until he was fired. There he met with Miguel Urbán, from Anticapitalistas, who accompanies him in this interview with Público, and also with representatives of Podemos, ERC, the BNG and Francia Insumisa. For Urbán, the matter is a clear case of “union persecution.”
Since last November 11, almost 200 days ago, his colleagues have been on strike for the dismissal of Guerrero and another colleague, Paqui Vilaplana, and to demand labor improvements.
In the interview, Guerrero details his working conditions: “I speak of my example. As a worker, I worked at night, I earned 830 euros a month.” In what schedule? “I started at ten at night and left at seven in the morning. I went in on Sunday at ten at night and no longer rested, my days off, as they said, I already left on Saturday at six in the morning” .
In other words, working six days a week “when in the agreement -continues Guerrero- it only says that we should work 39 hours a week. We have three payments by agreement, but they don’t give it to us and they make us sign them as collected. The same with the holidays, that we had a month of vacation and they said no, that fifteen days. And the other fifteen you signed as collected or collected. Or else I’d fire you.”
“Besides -adds the trade unionist- the extra hours that you were not paid. Holidays, a bonus belonged to you, they did not pay you. It belonged to me, I found out about that recently, for example, at my job there is no night, they took that away. Being a baker, they took that away. But it does belong to you to work fifteen days at night and fifteen days. And those days at night, you have to pay 25% more, which you did not pay. And I’ve been working nights for seven years, without changing shifts.”
That situation, says Guerrero, is what leads him and other colleagues to go see their boss and propose some improvements. “We did not propose that they give us everything either. Yes, it is a company that invoices a lot of money annually, but we do not want to ruin the company eitherSo we decided to negotiate something, minimum salary. Nothing. They did not want”.
dismissal and strike
Then came the dismissal, which he has claimed in court, because he considers it null and void. “We decided to join the union, the CGT. We implemented it in the company, which the company did not want us to implement the CGT either, and my colleagues elected me as union delegate. Well, We were already organizing ourselves and talking about going on strike, when suddenly a week after notifying the company, they fired my colleague Paqui, which was 17 years old. As a result of Paqui being fired, we tried to lighten up to go on strike, well, what are the issues of the agreement, that we did not have any point of our labor rights and apart from dealing with the dismissal of Paqui, but my surprise, what was it? That when I went with the UGT delegate to ask why they had fired Paqui, they already fired me the following Monday“.
They have been on strike for almost 200 days. And the comrades who are doing it, around fifteen, don’t get paid. “Only from the resistance fund, right now we have nothing. We are workers who have families, many things to pay for, we are parents, some are not, but they have a flat that their sister or niece is living with.” The truth is that we are not charging. We are for the charity of the people who enter something, at least, in the resistance box and we are pulling“.
What conditions would have to be in place for the strike to end? “We have asked the company a lot Sercla, an intermediary to act as a judge. And nothing, he has not wanted to sit down to negotiate or anything. We ask that you comply with the law, it is the minimum, that you comply with the agreement and sit down to negotiate for the dismissed. Because my dismissal, we believe, is a null dismissal,” says Guerrero.
Is there some kind of open communication channel with the company or does the company refuse to sit down? “The company is closed to negotiations. It denounced us for an illegal strike. It was legal. We have earned it. And now there are the demands, the claim for the extra payments for 2022 and the vacations for 2022, which we have not received,” he says.
For Guerrero, his problems are not isolated. “What I know, what are the companies of the Polygon, which is what we work with, they are all the same. I have a colleague who works there, who thanks to us has raised 200-300 euros, because he works there with a group of people. We are proud of that after so long. We are proud to open the can.”
For Urbán, this is very relevant because, he considers, “victories are contagious“. “They do not want the example of dignity and struggle of the Butrón workers in the region and abroad to spread. That is why it is necessary to support them, not only because of the barbarity, it is not only solidarity, but also mutual support. If they win, we win the rest“, says the MEP.
“We are seeing – Urbán points out – that the law of the jungle prevails. I would like to know where the labor inspection is. And what has it done that after 200 days of strike it has not shown up. This company exports abroad. There is a mark of violation of human rights. There is an element that for us is [clave]: The question of union persecution. The employers live well without unions, or with purchased unions. There was a works council in Butrón where the manager himself was a substitute member of the committee. There have been falsified elections, and when a union arrives, in this case, the CGT, there is a clear example of union discrimination and persecution.”
Urbán lists the initiatives he is considering to support the Butrón strikers: “Next week we are going to address the vote [en el Parlamento europeo] of a report on conciliation and collective bargaining. There is a specific section, a question on freedom of association. An appeal must be made to the Ministry of Labor so that it can investigate what Butrón is doing. We have agreed on the possibility of sending a question to the Council and the Commission on freedom of association and overexploitation. AND [tenemos la] possibility of submitting a petition to Parliament’s petitions committee because we understand that the European charter of social rights is violated. Europe would have to say something. The Butrón case cannot be allowed to exist“.