Several thousand workers at Northern Peruvian asparagus and artichoke company, Sociedad Agricola Viru (SAV), stopped work on April 22 in protest at what they believe is fraud by their employer. For the third year running the company declared a financial loss to revenue authorities, but the union believes this is just accounting manipulation to prevent them from sharing profits with workers.
At least two workers were injured when police in riot gear were called by the company and responded to striking workers with rubber bullets. General Secretary of the SITESAV union, Genaro Quispe Ventura, said two workers were being treated at the local clinic for their injuries. He regretted that the company responded with repression rather than dialogue. Police denied opening fire on protesting workers claiming they had only acted in legitimate defence.
Four thousand people work at the company’s farms. In 2012 there was a one day strike at the company, but this was lifted when the company agreed to respect the terms of the collective bargaining agreement with the union. SAV supply the European and U.S. markets as retailers increasingly source agricultural products from Peru. The company has a series of international certifications, but appears unconcerned at the consequences of calling riot police to quell a protest.
Union and management met on 25 April at the instigation of the conciliation service of the local labour authorities. It was agreed to pay the bonus agreed in the collective agreement for 1 May and that the parties would meet at the end of May to discuss the issue of profit-sharing. The labour inspectorate will also undertake an inspection of working conditions.There are however rumours that the company is proceeding to make hundreds of workers redundant.
Source: FENTAGRO, La Republica