Labor unions demand better conditions at Sodexo

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Trade unions gathering in Brazil from six countries launched a global campaign Wednesday against Sodexo, demanding the French catering and food services giant respect the rights of thousands of employees.

Unionists from the United States, France, Colombia, Morocco and the Dominican Republic joined organizations from Brazil at a press conference to highlight what they say are glaring abuses by the company which employs some 380,000 people in 80 countries.

"Sodexo must respect the rights of workers to organize, respect the laws of different countries," Jean-Michel Dupire, representative of French trade union CGT, told AFP.

"We also have demands for decent wages, better working conditions and respect for workers in general."

He said current and former Sodexo employees have complained of being subjected to pressure and threats for being union members.

Sodexo has been in conflict for years in the United States with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which accuses the French firm of union-busting and poor working conditions.

The issue prompted US actor Danny Glover to protest last year outside the company's US headquarters, where he and 11 other people were arrested.

CGT has also criticized Sodexo for its apparent lack of medical assistance to employees after workplace accidents, and said that in Colombia there had been cases where the company required negative pregnancy tests before hiring women.

SEIU's Autumn Weintraub said such abuses were not isolated cases, but company policy.

About 192,200 people, just over half of Sodexo's global work force, are employed by the company in the six countries whose labor unions gathered in Sao Paulo.

The global campaign was joined in Brazil by the country's powerful union CUT, and Dupire said discussions have begun with Indian trade unions about joining the initiative.

© 2011 AFP

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