Coca-Cola Workers Alliance calls for organising permanent and casual workers in the soft drinks sector

"FAWU members and ABI workers' demands for quality and permanent jobs to be retained and expanded are reasonable and noble (…) We demand from ABI Management to engage in sincere and genuine negotiations with FAWU with a view to concluding an agreement on issues in dispute and to undertake not to victimize workers who were on strike and shop stewards for their union role during the strike after the strike is over”.

This was the position adopted by the second Coca-Cola Alliance Steering Committee meeting in a special resolution on the situation at SAB-owned ABI, a Coca-Cola bottler in South Africa, where workers were on strike for more than 7 weeks for better wages and against casual employment. The strike was subsequently settled February 9, 2010.

The meeting, held February 4/5 at the IUF International Secretariat in Geneva, was convened to review the Alliance’s activities and plan the way forward for the Alliance as one of the IUF’s most ambitious projects of building a Global Trade Union organization in a major transnational company.

The Alliance, now in existence for almost two years, has defined clear priority issues. As the discussion on South Africa, but also other recent and upcoming negotiations and disputes clearly showed, the fight against rampant casualisation at Coca-Cola is a key issue for the Alliance. The Alliance will continue to document and highlight abuses of casual work and actively support any unions working on limiting, reversing, or stopping the destruction of permanent, direct employment.

A second – and sometimes interrelated - issue is support for organizing initiatives in the Coca-Cola system through the Alliance as well at the IUF’s global Coca-Cola and Pepsi organizing project. IUF coordinators are currently working with affiliates in a number of countries on organizing strategies, and global talks with the company are directed at ensuring organizing space for affiliates.

Of course, mutual support in case of disputes and attacks on trade union rights is an essential element of a global union network, and the meeting discussed several cases where such support has been provided, for example the conflict involving SIPTU in Ireland last year, and now FAWU in South Africa.

The meeting also discussed several serious cases of trade union rights violations, and adopted a special resolution calling for the immediate recognition of the union in Multan, Pakistan.

The difficult CBA negotiations at the Coca-Cola Bottler in Germany, CCEAG were another topic of the meeting. Johan Botella, chairman of the General Works Council, reported on the company’s uncompromising position regarding employment guarantees and the extension of agency work and the union’s firm position to retain decent work for all Coca-Cola workers in Germany.

The meeting also emphasized that an active Pepsi-Cola workers network will be expanded and strengthened and that this should be supported by the Alliance in order to enable better terms and conditions in the soft drinks sector in general. First steps for such a network have been taken and the meeting welcomed this initiative.

The meeting also discussed different variants of creating a sustainable resource base for the Alliance’s work in the future, and will approach Alliance affiliates shortly asking to set up a financial mechanism securing the Alliance’s infrastructure in the future.