BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — An effort by Kraft Foods to end trouble at its factory in Argentina has ignited a larger dispute between leftist unions and the government. Several thousand workers were marching on the presidential palace Monday in protest.
Kraft spokesman Pedro Lopez Matheu said the company's plant in suburban Buenos Aires reopened Monday after police, acting on a court order, forcefully evicted workers who seized the plant 40 days ago. About 65 people were detained and 12 injured.
Laid-off employees and their supporters gathered outside in nearly freezing temperatures, chanting as they backed up rush hour traffic for miles around the factory. Supporters also blocked streets in three other parts of the capital.
The Labor Ministry left union members out of its talks with Kraft executives on Friday, infuriating workers and leftists who marched toward the Casa Rosada as politicians appealed for dialogue.
The labor minister said his agency had to comply with the court's eviction order, and urged both sides to pursue a peaceful solution. "We are in no way disinterested in the fate of the fired workers," provincial Labor Minister Oscar Cuartango told Argentina's Diarios y Noticias agency.
About 160 Kraft workers — mainly activists and union representatives — were laid off in July after they briefly prevented managers from leaving the factory, which makes cookies and other food for Kraft Foods Inc., the world's second-largest food company.
Cristian Abarza, who was fired after eight years with the business, said the Northfield, Illinois-based Kraft wants to do away with the protections that union workers normally have in Argentina.
"They wanted to quiet us so they could begin applying the 12-hour American work shift, employing agency laborers that rotate every six months, increasing production without increasing salary or work force, freezing salaries and all the measures that these type of companies apply," Abarza said.