A whirlwind was unleashed in Colombia after Labor Minister Inés Ramírez said in a press conference that “the conditions in which these women work are not the best” at Seatech International’s seafood production plant in Cartagena, claiming that some workers have to wear diapers because they do not have the necessary time to go to the bathroom.
The company, which is best known for is Van Camps brand of tuna, has been under fire since a worker at the plant, Alicia Cardiles, submitted a video that was first seen in Congress during a debate about the mistreatment of employees by various companies in Colombia.
“This company, Seatech International, where they make Van Camp’s tuna, is forcing us to use disposable diapers because they deduct going to the bathroom from our salaries,” said Cardiles in the video that went viral on social media after the session. “This is causing us future diseases in our reproductive system, urinary infections that in the future can turn into cancer.”
Seatech has denied the claims and filed a criminal complaint for slander against Cardiles.
“Seatech categorically rejects the unfounded claims made by the Minister of Labor Gloria Inés Ramírez about the working conditions of our employees,” stated the companye. “A company cannot be attacked and stigmatized in this way … The company and its 1,800 workers, reiterate that what was stated is not true and will proceed to defend itself against this attack under the law and the regulations in force in Colombia.”
The lawyer spoke to Caracol Radio and said that there is no order to wear diapers, but rather working conditions that have induced some workers to wear diapers to avoid having the time they use the bathroom deducted from their salary. In addition, the lawyer presented documents showing that the company has paid fractions of days to its employees. Although the document does not specify the reason for not recognizing full days of work, the data fits with the complaint.
The Ministry of Labor announced that is conducting an investigation, noting that there have already been eight sanctions taken against the Seatech and a partner company for workplace violations. There are at least another 10 open claims of violations including potential labor code violations of withholding worker salaries without their authorization and “illegal deduction in salaries due to time control for physiological needs.”