Hector Ponce, ATILRA leader, was appointed president of the Latin American Dairy Sector
September 3, 2012
The Secretary General of ATILRA, Hector Luis Ponce, participated in the Dairy Seminar IUF Latin 15 and 16 August, and was elected Chairman of the Latin American Dairy. His full speech.
I think at some point we are all aware of the need to develop common strategies and move coordinately in an activity as complex as milk.
Unions play an important role, and it is also true that there are some areas that are not handled by the unions and that operate in making fundamental decisions for the sector.
So, without trying to lay absolute value judgment, it is clear that industry workers will not save alone, much less at the expense of other sectors of the supply chain activity.
About ten years ago, ATILRA performed a 180 degree turn, strengthening the organization and carrying our Union to unprecedented performance levels. We position ourselves with a young leadership and prepare our base to effectively fight for our professionals’ rights .
We also went to meet other challenges, trying to interact with dairy farmers with whom at one time we had great differences, clashes and confrontations.
We approached the dairy farmers in order that they knew firsthand our aspirations and difficulties. In these exchanges we found meeting points for a common struggle.
ATILRA understands and defends that the producer must develop a profitable activity. If the producer does not have a return, the tamber probably will not produce milk and be passed to another activity, such as in Argentina, where hundreds of producers went to the soybean crop.
When that happens we all lose, because the dairy is a unique and fundamental lever for regional economies, because where there is a working dairy farm there, no dignity and established families.
For these reasons our relationship with dairy farmers has grown. The meetings have been gaining greater regularity and frequency, allowing us to build bigger and better partnerships.
We also try to maintain a consistent and harmonious relationship with the national government through the Ministry of Agriculture of the Nation and the Secretariat for Dairy, which plays an important role in the defense sector.
This is a key strategy and essential for the activity can be strengthened, and to the extent that this occurs, dairy workers can continue trading and expanding the party in its own right belongs to the world of work.
Furthermore, the dairy industry must have not only have economic and financial capacity, but, in turn, know very well the dairy. Here in Brazil mentioned how mutual funds ruined several companies, for the simple reason that they did not know the complexity of the sector.
We have been working for several years with the IUF Regional Secretariat throughout Latin America, and we find that we have the same problems. The issue that concerns us today, so to make up the Latin American Dairy Committee, is to insist on the need to build common strategies that we develop in the field nationally and internationally.
Overall, the dairy industry in Latin America is growing, and there are some countries that face this region and still have the capacity to increase their milk basin. New Zealand, for example, controls 32 percent of the international dairy trade, but only one company, Fonterra, accounts for 95 percent of its production and is increasing its presence here.
On the other hand, there are countries in Latin America that are playing an important role in the dairy industry, as is the case of Brazil, which holds an extraordinary capacity for national and international expansion. But, frankly, if it grows like Argentina, concentrating production in a few companies, small and medium industry will disappear and thus the number of producers.
Speaking of Brazil, we understand that organizations here present, representing industrial workers and farmers, have a great responsibility to support the sector by promoting public policies that protect the producer, and also that since the unions we move towards economic and working conditions that fit the concept of decent work.
For these reasons, we see the need for Brazil to integrate, as Argentina does, in the World Dairy Division of the IUF, because in that country is playing important things for the industry and for the workers themselves.
The Latin American Dairy Committee is the appropriate forum to discuss what our strengths and where our weaknesses lie. In our case, we learned from our own mistakes, when our organization was fragmented, a situation that was exploited by companies to precarious work dairy worker.
We learned that the failure to industrialize much milk is no guarantee that workers are better, they have a decent pay and conditions of work appropriate.
In 1999 Argentina we processed 10.329 million liters of milk, and yet we had one of the lowest wages in the food industry. It means that if we have a serious organization and giving battle to the interests of their constituents, the growth of the sector means that workers live better.
ATILRA has a National Executive Council and 30 Sectional scattered throughout the country. When trying to solve a conflict within the scope of Sectional itself. If the conflict deepens, acting severally other sectionals. Then we have 200 partners involved in a conflict, 500 or more than 1,000, as happened in some locations. How do you get to it? Well, training and raising awareness both leaders as fellow base.
This capability has enabled action and we currently have adequate levels of dialogue with companies, including multinationals operating in the country. What we discuss in the Collective Bargaining Agreement is respected by all companies equally.
In an industry transnationalized, unions must internationalize its scope. That’s why during the International Dairy of the IUF, held in March 2010 in Buenos Aires, we demanded the creation of a specific instance that nucleate the expectations and needs of dairy workers.
That space was formed in October of that year, and now the idea is to create a network where all unions act to represent the sector in Latin America, because in this way we will contribute more to the Dairy Division of the IUF.
It is not in our minds create a bureaucratic structure. The idea is to form a network of agile and efficient executive, to pursue a job in the whole region.
We have progressed very positively when they created the Dairy Department, and then, in 2006, with the founding of the Latin American Federation of Nestlé (FELATRAN), which has dozens of unions in more than ten countries.
As stated in the invitation to this seminar, we have many challenges: the shift of the agricultural frontier, the impact of free trade agreements, the presence of new players such as Brazilian companies and their vocation of union, increasing mining production as opposed to food, the problems faced by small farmers, etc.
So, congratulations to the Latin American Committee Dairy!, And we welcome its constituent organizations, wishing you well in this new road we are taking together.