Coca-Cola Unions in Africa to intensify their cooperation

Coca-Cola union representatives from South Africa, Benin, Ghana, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Tanzania, Togo and Zambia met March 12-14 in Johannesburg, South Africa to discuss successes and challenges of trade union work in the Coca-Cola system in Africa, and the integration of African Unions into the Global Coca-Cola Alliance.

In plenary and working groups, delegates made extensive use of the possibility to exchange information and experience and receive each others consultation on topics such as variable pay schemes or attempts of management to exclude certain categories of workers from trade union membership. They also developped communication channels to keep in contact after the conference.

A major topic of the conference were problems related to outsourcing and casualisation. Case studies showed that in some locations, up to 50% of the workforce is employed under different irregular employment schemes such as temporary work contracts extended for many years, hiring through labour brokers, or outsourcing. As a result, the casual workers suffer from inferior conditions of pay, benefits, and medical insurance. In particular, this also concerns the coverage by HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment programs.

Delegates intensively discussed strategies to push back and limit casualisation, and endorsed the Charter of demands of the IUF Global Coca-Cola workers Alliance.

Casual work was also a main topic in the discussion with the General Director of the Coca-Cola Canners plant in Wadeville. As the employers representative explained, in the last years, the company had made the experience that using casual work was more expensive due to the high fees to be paid to labour brokers, increased risks of using workers from outside the company, and the constant need or retraining newcomers. Therefore casual employment at the Canners plant has been rolled back to only cover truly temporary requirements such as maternity replacements or vacancies.

Delegates unanimously approved a resolution (see full text, agreeing to “build the strength of our unions to oppose deteriorations of payment systems and other conditions of work and achieve a decent life for all Coca-Cola workers in Africa; stand together and support each other in order to stop and do away with trade union rights violations; build and strengthen the Coca-Cola Workers Alliance in Africa by creating regular communication, exchange of information and experience, and supporting each other in solidarity.
Delegates also expressed their full solidarity with the struggle of workers at Unilever Khanewal, Pakistan, for permenant employment .

In conclusion of the seminar, Baca Thembinkosi, national negotiator for FAWU, South Africa, expressed a strong joint feeling of participants of the seminar: “This has been long time coming. I hope we all of us are going to be as dedicated to this cause as we should be. The significance of the interaction at a personal level with our brothers and sisters from Coca Cola in Africa can not be overemphasized. Digitally, we have to make it look and feel like we are in one Country. We cannot afford to Nationalize our struggle, it must be International.

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