Starbucks Corp cafes in Chile remained open on Thursday despite the threat of a strike by union employees demanding pay increases and more benefits.
Fewer than 30 percent of Starbucks’ more than 670 employees in Chile are unionized. Two hundred of those unionized workers authorized a strike on June 25.
Roughly 140 of those union members were scheduled to work on Thursday, said Andres Giordano, president of the Sindicato de Trabajadores de Starbucks Coffee Chile union.
If 50 percent, plus one, do not show up for their shifts a strike will be called and protests will begin on Friday, he said.
“I calculate that 25 employees haven’t shown up for work while eight have,” Giordano said on Thursday, referring to morning shifts. “Right now we’re not sure if the strike is going ahead or not.”
The union said it will have final numbers on Friday on how many union workers skipped shifts.
Among other things, union workers are seeking pay raises, a variety of bonuses and a lunch stipend for hourly workers. Managers in Chile receive a monthly stipend for lunch.
Starbucks officials have told Reuters its pay and other compensation in Chile is “above and beyond” what is offered by the coffee chain’s peers, as measured against a group of 10 unidentified domestic and international companies in the food retail, apparel and tourism industries.
“Management already said they wouldn’t agree to any of our demands. We didn’t want to get to this point,” said Giordano. “This is our last resort.”
Company spokesman Jim Olson said Chile’s Labor Bureau will rule tomorrow on the effectiveness of the strike.
The Labor Bureau has to validate the participation level of the strike,” Olson said, adding it was “too close to call” for now.
“We were very pleased with the significant numbers of our union partners who came to work for their scheduled shifts,” he added. “We look forward to having all of them back.”
Starbucks operates roughly 17,000 cafes in more than 50 countries around the world. The vast majority of its cafes are not unionized.
It has 31 cafes in Chile. Most of those are in Santiago, where police have cracked down on massive student demonstrations over education standards and costs.
“There’s no direct link” with the student protests gripping Chile, said Giordano, a 24-year-old barista and shift supervisor, who added he had to halt his university studies because he did not have enough money to pay the fees.
Nevertheless, he did say the student protests are influential.
“All these things are related. People are motivated to protest,” said Giordano, who has attended some of the student demonstrations.
Source : Reuters