Merger of bottlers and the future of employment in Spain and Japan and union rights issues in Guatemala mark the IUF/ Coca-Cola April 2013, Atlanta meeting

Together with the IUF secretariat unions representing Coca-Cola workers in Spain, Japan, Guatemala, Argentina and USA met with senior labour relations management at Coca-Cola's headquarters in Atlanta for the first twice-yearly meetings of 2013.

Progress around occupational health and safety issues and improved labour-management relations at the local bottler in Morocco with the IUF affiliated UMT were welcomed. Nonetheless the IUF Secretariat and the UMT remain focused on union organizing and rights issues for Coca-Cola Morocco operations.

Questions about the excessive use of none permanent workers inside Coca-Cola FEMSA operations in Colombia noted in an ILO study were covered through an update from Coca-Cola on present numbers at those sites. The IUF proposed that TCCC engages with FEMSA to determine what further action will be taken and the IUF will consult with members in Colombia to verify any progress. TCCC invited the IUF to look into the latest numbers they had provided. The IUF also proposed FEMSA join the next bi-annual IUF/Coca-Cola meeting in November 2013.  

In Guatemala 8 months after TCCC took control of the two ex-INCASA bottling plants following discussions within the “Atlanta process”, IUF affiliates still need of meaningful local dialogue platform to resolve outstanding issues locally and add value to the Atlanta process.  TCCC agreed to build such a framework with IUF affiliates in Guatemala.

Following bottler mergers in Japan employees in the affected bottlers and their subsidies feel serious anxiety on their employment security and working conditions. UA ZENSEN stressed that TCCC has a responsibility to clarify the direction of future Coca-Cola business in Japan and to reduce the current level of anxiety in its bottler workforce.

The same concern was raised by IUF Spanish affiliates about the merger of bottlers in Spain and Portugal. Apparently there were deficiencies in transparency, disclosure of information and communication with unions. The consolidation created one legal franchised entity based on a ten year agreement. Unusually TCCC hold no shares in the new business. IUF affiliates in Spain proposed a sector wide agreement for the 3 main branded beverage producers to provide an opportunity to raise working conditions notably in the “own-brand” category reducing competition based on low wages and poor working conditions.

The consolidation of 8 bottlers in Spain and Portugal under one legal entity will be completed on June 1. TCCC stated that as partners unions shall get timely information and a dialogue should be built correctively in Spain.

Ahmet Bozer, President of Coca-Cola International joined the meeting and commented on the questions about Japan and Spain. He agreed that communication at local level needed dialogue with unions and stressed that he was optimistic about the future of the business in both Japan and Spain

The IUF secretariat presented a report detailing the impact on TCCC of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and the revised OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. The IUF stressed the impact on issues around the use of contract and agency labour. To be compliant with these standards TCCC like all companies could no longer merely fall back on local laws since the higher international standards now clearly apply. Equally TCCC must carry out more stringent “due diligence” in relation to its human rights “impact” both for its direct operations and supply chain.

Positive labour relations at CCI in Pakistan were highlighted as issues are now resolved through constructive negotiations and regular communication between the union, IUF Pakistan office, Asia Pacific region and CCI. There is some progress in India at Coca-Cola Piranghut as contract workers have been offered training after which they may be placed in permanent positions. However this progress is overshadowed by the refusal of Coca-Cola India to communicate directly with our affiliate and instead engage in discussions through a contractor as a “go-between”.

As a result of local and international campaigning, negotiations and organizing in Philippines, SACORU union, a member of ACCUP reached an agreement without a performance pay scheme (P3) thus avoiding an anti-worker performance-base wage scheme in their Collective Bargaining Agreement. Other local unions will now no doubt re-evaluate earlier agreements signed under the false premise that all new CBA’s required the inclusion of “P3”.Amendments made unilaterally by management in the 2010 manual workers agreement in Sri Lanka substantially changed the disputes procedure to restrict the role of the union and impose conditions that were never agreed. In the meeting the IUF insisted that TCCC persuade SABCO to tell its Sri Lankan management act to allow good faith bargaining to take place in particular by removing the offending clause.

A Teamsters local union in California had not been allowed to set up a political voter registration table at a Coke plant to inform workers how to register to vote. TCCC responded that whilst this was current policy they would be open to discuss this issue further. The use of labour consultants (“union busters”) during de-certification and organizing campaigns was also discussed and it was agreed these discussions would continue to explore whether a better mutual process could be identified.

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