Interview with Javier Hermosilla, one of the Shop Stewards in Kraft

"We haven’t been defeated, we’ve become stronger"


Interview with Javier Hermosilla, one of the Shop Stewards in Kraft

Hermosilla is the only Shop Steward that the Kraft company won’t let
return to the plant. His fate could be decided tomorrow in the
Ministry of Labor. “They are trying to discriminate us by calling us

By Adriana Meyer

The union leader is 32 years old and works one of the 16 cookie ovens
in the factory.

They call him “Poke” because 10 years ago when he started working at
the Kraft (ex – Terrabusi) plant they called him “Pokemon”. Javier
Hermosilla-32 years old with 3 children- began to work as a shoemaker
at the age of 14 and he met his future wife in the shoe factory. In
2005, along with Ramon Bogado, he was elected to be a Shop Steward,
transforming him into another one of the key players in the Kraft
Foods conflict. This week the spotlight will be on Javier, while the
Justice of labor decides his fate. During his conversation with Pagina
12, the leader, who is close with the PTS stated that, “the factory
isn’t defeated, it has strengthened.”

Hermosilla works in one of the 16 cookie ovens that measure 100 meters
in size. “The only smell that bothers me is the concentrated
flavoring, like the cheese in the Club Social crackers, apart from
that it’s good, it’s like a gigantic bakery.”

– In the factory can you say that you belong to a particular political party?

–With my coworkers, yes. The problem is with the supervisors. When
there are massive layoffs, the militants are the first to go. And,
when I started working at the factory I didn’t tell them that I had
studied Sociology at UBA (he laughs).

- Why did you state that you aren’t crazy ultra-leftists?

–I have an ideology and, in this situation, making the company obey
the few laws workers’ rights laws that exist bothered them. The
Minister of Labor, (Carlos) Tomada, told us that we’re intransigent
because we won’t allow 52 brothers and sisters to be left on the
street. It’s illogical. They’re also discriminating against us when
the say we’re idealists. When a Peronist or Radical party worker goes
on strike they don’t accuse them of this. This form of discrimination
is an attempt to divide us.

–Are you unable by law to return to the Kraft plant?

–No, it’s false. The company found a judge that thinks like them. They
consider me an obstacle for increasing their capitalist earnings.
They tell me that I can’t return to the factory and I had the courts
ruling in my hand and said, “but in the ruling it doesn’t say that”.
Tuesday (tomorrow) I have a hearing and my coworkers are going to
demonstrate in front of the court. Every year we fight for a salary
increase that we never get, it’s a political problem with the State,
which caters to a small number of people. The Ceramic Union in Neuquen
proposes the creation of unions that address the political problems
throughout the country. The Daer union, for example, is made to use
the funding for the social works for its own benefit. The Ministry of
Labor, posing as the mediator in the Kraft conflict, isn’t there to
defend you, they treat both sides under “equal” conditions, but the
workers and the companies aren’t on a level playing field. The idea is
that these institutions are at the service of the majority, the poor
and the unemployed.

–How much does Kraft worker earn?

–The average salary is one of the lowest in the country: 9 to 10 pesos
an hour, betwenn 2,000 and 2,500 pesos. The women, by law, can’t work
the night shift consecutively.

- Where is the conflict going?

–It’s going to end in our favor. The company made a lot moves that
ended badly for them: they wanted to break up the strike, but they
couldn’t; they wanted to divide us, but they couldn’t. This conflict
is a victory if all of the workers return to the factory. That’s why
it’s so important that the delegates return, to pressure them from the
inside along with the pressure from outside the plant.

–¿Your not afraid that the worker delegates, including yourself, won’t
be allowed back in the plant?

–It could happen, but the company belittled me in front of the workers
and it had the opposite effect, there are a lot of angry people
because I can’t return to the plant.

–Isn’t there a risk that the conflict fizzles out and the fired
workers are left alone? Would you continue blocking roads?

–I think so, that’s what the Shop Stewards said. The workers that are
allowed to return have to organize, and from inside the plant there is
a magnificent amount of strength. The company and the Daer union are
well aware of this; they know that the factory is strong and that
outside the plant there is enough strength to continue the struggle.
This combined with a strike within the plant, isn’t a good situation
for them. The factory isn’t defeated, exactly the opposite, it’s
stronger. Lopez Matheu, who was responsible for getting rid of the
Shop Stewards from Clarin (Argentine newspaper) and from AGR, has

– Are there groups that are threatening the workers and forcing them to strike?

–It’s impossible that in a factory with many leaders and police that a
group of 10 people can terrorize 2,600. For the last18 years ago Daer
hasn’t been able to win a majority of the Shop Stewards: in the last
election they weren’t even on the ballot. They have around 300 votes
in their support in the plant. The Shop Stewards have 1,300 to 1,400.
There is a group that goes between the two, but in this case they
became company scabs. In two of the assemblies they showed up with the
bosses and supervisors. They proposed to end the strike, but they lost
and yelled at everyone. They were ignored. It’s been over 30 days with
2,600 workers on strike; this is what they want to cover up.

–Did you try to close the plant in July because of the H1N1 virus?

– We asked for a week leave and the company refused. The union
proposed to demonstrate in front of the executive building and the
Shop Stewards supported the idea. They gave us the weekend off and on
Monday everything was exactly the same, there wasn’t disinfectant.
There were a lot of angry workers and we went on strike again, this
time the Shop Stewards were leading. The company refused to close the
daycare, so that the women would keep working, but people were afraid
that the children would catch the H1N1 virus. They finally closed the
daycare, but they didn’t give the mothers time off to take care of
their children. The other big lie is that we kidnapped the executives,
which is supposedly why they fired workers. It was just a means of
sweeping up the Shop Stewards and the worker delegates, make selective
firings and get rid of the organization of the workers.

–The vice-minister Noemí Rial said that delegates are only care about
their own reincorporation, and that there is a conflict within the

–That’s completely false. Yes we want to return to the plant to
strengthen the struggle and to fight for the reincorporation of

–What’s going to happen to your mandates that have expired?

–We’re condemning the company and union’s attempt to trick us. They
say that the mandate ended and that it’s not extended, like the normal
procedure. The Ministry of Labor says that they can’t do anything. We
know that the union planned for a fake meeting, without us knowing,
because if we’re there we’ll take over the meeting.

–But the word was that you and Bogado lost the elections.

–It’s a lie. Those who don’t know the Kraft plant say that. We’ve been
a part of the Shop Stewards for the last 16 years, in the last
elections we were the only ones on the ballot.

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