Tunisia: Coca-Cola Merchandisers protest after being dismissed for asking fair employment

Having worked year in year out on merchandising Coca-Cola products for Coca-Cola BST, subsidiary of The Coca-Cola Company (TCCC) in Tunisia, a group of 10 supervisor-merchandisers decided to join FGAT-UGTT, the union organising Coca-Cola workers in the country, in early 2010. One of their main concerns were the one-year contracts that they were working on, regularly renewed by Manpower the labour agency Coke was using - a practice that went on for between 8 and 13 years for the individuals in the group.

And Coke knows why they use this form of employment - shortly after the organising move they announced workers would now only get a one-month contract as they were "changing the service provider" - in a clear move to conceal the illegitimate and in fact illegal practice of renewing the very same employment contracts for so many years. 

When merchandisers refused to accept this deterioration of their employment relationship, Coke, after having accepted their work for more than a month with no contracts signed at all, fired them May 6 (or, as the company, claims, Manpower did). 

Workers insist theymust be reinstated, and they must be reinstated at Coke who is their true employer - the owner of the product they are promoting, their direct supervisor - in short, everything related to their work was handled by Coke. Despite having been without pay for 5 months now, they refuse to accept an employment relationship with Manpower - where they would have no guarantee of returning to their previous work or even being employed in their home cities. 

However despite several attempts to discuss the matter including meetings at the Regional Labour Inspection, the company refused to listen. Workers then decided to take action and  they occupied the BST building shortly in late August, even staying over night and taking their nightly meals during Ramadan there. However no progress has been reached to date, and the union says new protest action is likely to happen if a meeting now proposed with the General Labour Inspection will not bring any results. 

The IUF is closely monitoring the situation and has expressed its strong concern over the refusal to create regular decent employment for long-term permanent workers towards TCCC.  


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