Workers from Venezuela's largest private food producer are accusing the company of refusing to consider a pay raise demanded by union representatives.
“President [Nicolas Maduro], we´re calling on you [to take action], because we can not accept that an oligarch is now mistreating the people,” said Frank Quijada, the head of the brewers' union Sintracerliv.
He said the dispute left 12,000 workers “living a nightmare.” Speaking to state broadcaster VTV, Quijada said urgent action is needed from Maduro to bring Polar back to the negotiating table.
Sintracerliv says employees need wage increases to keep up with inflation, along with changes to the company health scheme, vacation benefits and food tickets. On Tuesday, the union called on the labor ministry to mediate the dispute, stating Polar wasn't budging.
“Management refuses to give workers a fair contract, we have been asking since October 2013 and the company has refused,” Quijada said. The union leader said workers are prepared to go on strike and “paralyze the beer sector” if a compromise isn't reached soon.
The company has responded by arguing it has already offered to compromise, and its the union that's being stubborn. Polar's Carlos De Lima said in a statement the company has already met with the union more than 40 times.
“Since the beginning of the negotiations, union representatives have delayed and sabotaged the process,” De Lima claimed on Friday. “We remain ready to close the final agreement as soon as possible,” he said.
Along with being Venezuela's largest beer maker, Polar also claims it produces nearly half of the country's basic food products.
The company and the government have long been at loggerheads over issues ranging from workers' rights to allegations Polar manipulates its output to sway public opinion.
Maduro has long accused the company of being part of an “economic war” aimed at destabilizing the country, but repeatedly stated he is willing to work with Polar management to overcome their political differences.