Information on the Sindicato Unico de Empleados de Devoto (SUED), including whether its employees have been subjected to threats or attacks (1993 to October 2002) [URY39414.E]

The following information was provided in a 27 August 1999 article published in the Montevideo-based Brecha publication.

Devoto was the first supermarket chain in Uruguay to form a workers' union in July 1999 called the Sindicato Unico de Empleados de Devoto (SUED). On 5 August 1999, three weeks after forming the SUED, 10 delegates of the union sent a letter to the managers of the chain, which operated 17 branches and was owned by the Exxel multinational corporation, to inform them of the creation of the union. Point five of the letter requested a meeting with management which was not granted. Two union members working in the area of information technology were later fired.

A week after the letter was sent to management, about 200 employees of Devoto, most of whom were between the ages of 18 and 25 and lacked union experience, attended the union's second assembly. The delegates asked for the union to be recognized and to have input in decisions related to the supermarket's restructuring, and criticized the massive layoffs Devoto had faced since being bought out by Exxel, which had seen its staff dwindle from 3,500 to 1,500. One unionist stated that despite the reduced staff, the same work had to be carried out under the same conditions.

When finding out about the union, the branch manager in Colón allegedly screamed to his employees that all those affiliated with the union would be fired. In the Sayago branch, a manager also questioned his employees about the union and when they responded that they knew nothing about it, the manager stated: "Just as well!" (menos mal). In the Pichincha branch of Devoto, an assistant manager was known to give derogatory nicknames to female employees he suspected of being involved in the union.

Substrayo reported on 31 May 2000 that the Disco supermarket chain, associated with the Casino group of France, acquired 96 per cent of the Devoto supermarket chain and its subsidiaries. However, the UITA-Secretaría Regional Latinoamericana Website reports that Casino/Disco acquired 96 per cent of Devoto in 2001, and that the two administrations merged in October 2001 (n.d.). As in many cases when companies merge, employees of Devoto were let go, however, the SUED continued to operate (ibid.). Following the merger, the union attempted to extend union membership to those workers in the Disco and Géant supermarkets (ibid.). From that moment, a [translation] "hidden and repressive campaign begun where the threat of losing one's job was constantly present" (ibid.). For example, after employees at Géant hosted an election to elect union delegates, one of the three candidates was fired a week later (ibid.).

On 11 January 2002, Brecha reported the SUED was attempting to extend union membership to workers employed at Disco and Géant (supermarkets owned by Casino) in order to group them all into one large union. No reports on whether this attempt was successful could be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Brecha [Montevideo]. 11 January 2002. "Los trajadores también suman." (Uruguay en la Coyuntura [Montevideo]). [Accessed 4 Oct. 2002]
_____. 27 August 1999. No. 717. "Programa mínimo para tiempos de resistencia." [Accessed 4 Oct. 2002]

Substrayo [Montevideo]. 31 May 2000. "Disco y Devoto se fusionaron." [Accessed 4 Oct. 2002]

UITA-Secretaría Regional Latinoamericana. n.d. "Medidas antisindicales." [Accessed 4 Oct. 2002]

Additional Sources Consulted

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2001. 2002.

IRB Databases


World News Connection (WNC)

Internet sites including:

Amnesty International

Human Rights Watch

International Confederation of Free Trade Unions

Radio El Espectador. Search engine.

Social Watch


Search engines: