Argentina: Occupying PepsiCo workers evicted, detained

July 15, 2017
Police attack workers occupying the PepsiCo plant on July 12.

Argentine police violently evicted a group of laid-off workers from a PepsiCo factory in the capital city of Buenos Aires on July 12, after more than three weeks of occupying the plant.

Since June 20, a group of workers and labour rights activists occupied the plant to defend the 691 people who lost their jobs after an announcement made by the company confirmed that they would no longer operate.

Security forces destroyed makeshift camps and detained several people, but those in the strike alleged that they don’t know how many people were taken away.

Witnesses say police fired tear gas and gave a time limit of five minutes for the workers to leave the premises. Some workers burned tires and threw rocks while a smaller group climbed to the building's roof to resist the eviction and arrest.

Judge Andrea Rodriguez Mentaste approved the eviction, which began at 8am local time and lasted for two hours.

“They arrived and advanced without talking with us,” Left Front lawmaker Nicolas del Cano said. “We were beaten and they threw pepper spray.

“We tried to talk to the judge but she did not respond. The workers sent a letter to the governor and they responded with sticks and repression. The workers want to defend their jobs.”

Workers said an agreement between Argentine President Mauricio Macri and Buenos Aires Governor Maria Eugenia Vidal led to the layoffs, in accordance with austerity measures that applied to their company. Such measures, implemented by Macri since taking office at the end of 2015, have led to more than 179,000 workers in the public and private sector losing their jobs last year.

Gas and electricity prices are rising. Jobs are being cut. Government institutions are downsizing while private companies linked to the ruling administration are getting tax cuts.

PepsiCo, on the other hand, said in a statement that it closed the factory “because of the inherent obstacles to the location of the plant in a largely residential area, its complex structure cost and extensive logistical requirements”. It said it will relocate 155 workers and compensate the remaining employees.

[Reprinted from TeleSUR English.]

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