Controversy between the Colombian government and the canning company Van Camp’s, after the Labor Minister, Gloria Inés Ramírez, denounced several cases of alleged labor abuse by this company against its workers. This accusation was made by Ramírez, who explained cases of labor abuse and mistreatment evidenced during visits and interventions made by her team to several companies in the country.
According to Ministry sources, at Van Camp’s there were 26 findings that are under investigation, among which is the “illegal discount in salaries for time control of physiological needs.” The company denies the allegations and announced legal actions against Minister Ramírez.
Diaper use among female workers
In a press conference, the Minister of Labor announced that her ministry is investigating several cases of alleged abuse by the canning company against its workers. Ramírez affirmed that “in Van Camp’s, they have found that the conditions in which these women work are not the best. They do not have time to go to the bathroom. We detected that some workers have to wear diapers.”
Similarly, the ministry has announced a shock plan to ensure that workers’ rights are respected. However, formal sanctions have not yet been imposed in this specific case, although the Ministry of Labor has already decreed fines totaling 25,000 million pesos to companies that fail to comply with labor regulations. These sanctions have been mainly for problems related to the payment of social security and complaints related to liquidation.
The case has come to light, although for the time being without evidence, as a result of the deployment of up to 1,450 labor inspectors whose function is to ensure compliance with labor legislation in Colombian companies. The minister also pointed out that this year an elite group has been created within these labor inspections, made up of women who are specifically dedicated to monitoring compliance with the law among female workers.
Van Camp’s announces legal action
For its part, Seatech International, manufacturer of the Van Camp’s tuna brand, has quickly answered the minister’s accusations. The company “categorically rejects the unfounded statements made by the Minister of Labor, Gloria Inés Ramírez, about the working conditions of our employees,” the company wrote on its social networks.
Similarly, the company has assured that “it is not possible to attack and stigmatize a company in this way. This is an attack against more than 35 years of work, contribution to the country and a generation of decent jobs,” concludes the brief initial statement of the cannery.
The company announced, shortly afterwards, that it will initiate legal action against the minister, for making harsh accusations that it says are unfounded. “The company and its 1,800 collaborators reiterate that what was stated is not true and will proceed to defend itself against this attack under the law and regulations in force in Colombia,” Van Camp’s said.
Political turmoil in Colombia
Unsurprisingly, this controversy has generated considerable political turmoil in Colombia. President Gustavo Petro has supported his minister, citing on social networks various alleged reports, as well as a union complaint, which would support the accusations of labor abuse.
For their part, reactions against the government from the conservative opposition have been along the lines of blaming it for damaging the image of a company operating in Colombia, advocating the defense of the employment generated by this company in Cartagena de Indias, where 1,800 people work. “The only company in Colombia that fishes and cans tuna is Van Camps. By slandering them and thus damaging their image and sales, the minister favors foreign companies with which Van Camps competes, and of course affects employment in Cartagena. Van Camps is the company that employs the most women on the Atlantic coast,” wrote the former mayor of Bogota, Enrique Peñalosa, on his social networks.
Other representatives of the political opposition to the Colombian president soon weighed in on the matter. The senator of the conservative Democratic Center, María Fernanda Cabal, has been, as usual, one of the most forceful. “Colombia has a Minister of Labor who seems to hate the generators of employment. In this case, either she proves the serious accusations she has made or she falls into the deepest discredit. The fallacy cannot become a recurrent behavior of administration and government”, affirmed the senator.
President Petro’s response, linking the defense of Van Camp’s by Senator Cabal’s party with their alleged financing by this company, continued with the game of cross accusations in social networks. “I already understand,” wrote the president on X, attaching a post of the independent media Cuestión Pública, which states that “Seatech International donated 104,462 dollars to the [then] governing party Centro Democrático in 2018”, while adding that the company had also collaborated financially in the presidential campaign of Iván Duque (2018-2022).