Coca-Cola Beverage Korea Labour Unions unite to resolve workplace issues

Coca-Cola Beverage Korea Labour Unions (CCBKLU) held their ordinary conventions respectively on February 2012 and endorsed their 2012 work plans and budgets. Unions demanded for equal sharing of good profit results and improvement of occupational health and safety at Coca-Cola Korea operations. However, the Company didn't respond the demands of the unions. Instead, through its congratulatory address, it stressed that Coca-Cola Beverage Korea (CCBK) has been growing up over the past 4 years in terms of sales and operating profit but it was not a first class beverage company and therefore all employees must overcome much more hardships in facing challenges of world economy's uncertainties and unforeseen consumers' trend. The Unions expect that 2012 CBA negotiations would be hard to reach an agreement in this context. On the other hand, the unions express that workload from excessive sales target that the Company has set up increased the burden and stress on the workers.

CCBK is a subsidiary of LG Household&Healthcare (LGHH) which owns the 90 percent of shares. The rest of shares belong to TCCC. It's interesting that a Coca-Cola subsidiary where TCCC has 10% shares would announce and accept that it's not a first class company just to avoid its workers' demands for equal shares of good profit results!

3 unions organised at CCBK have similar complaints and concerns raised from workplaces. Members of unions working at the production point out that floating wage like overtime allowance is higher than fixed payroll which means that workers make it hard to get living cost with 40-hours of work week.

The Unions underline that the companies tend to extend floating wage level such as bonus and various allowances rather than increasing the fixed salaries. Therefore unions will focus on reforming the existing payroll system toward decreasing floating wage level in the long term by allocating part of allowances into the basic salary even though it will be a small amount initially. The Unions furthermore introduced their plans to demand the extension of retirement age due to the new regulation delaying the receipt of pensions till 65 years old.

Workers in the sales department complain of 'one truck-two persons system' which doesn't operate well because of the shortage of workers as well as the skilled ones. Normally one truck-two persons system is composed of one permanent and one contract worker as a team. The turnover rate of contract workers is higher than permanent jobs due to the conditions of precarious employment. Furthermore the high turnover rate prevents to keep contract workers skilled which sometimes results in permanent workers working alone to save time and improve working efficiency reluctantly.

The Unions emphasize that the solution to 'one truck-two persons system' issue is to push the company to create decent jobs which will ease the workload of sales workers. In order to achieve this, the terms of service of the Company like working hours and one truck-two persons system should be followed from the workplace. In that case, it would be expected that workers wouldn't be able to complete their daily work allocation. The Unions encouraged those workers concerned to stop working and return to the office without hesitation and fear saying to their supervisors that it was not a non-fulfilment of duties but inevitable under the circumstances they work. Also such an action would be the ground of fighting for decent jobs during CBA negotiations.

Workers also raise the issue of growing number of self employed drivers (a sort of subcontractor) as one of concerns and inform that those drivers substitute permanent jobs. Regarding sales target, unions are lifting their voices that the Company cannot set up the business targets unilaterally without discussing with the Unions in order to set reasonable standards and promotion methods.

Regarding occupational health and safety issues, as workers' average age grows, workers call on the company to set up friendly working conditions such as weight limits of products on lifting at one time and equipment updating for their age.

According to the Korean Industrial Safety and Health Law, a weight limit is defined as below 25kg at a time but usually sales workers deliver 3 boxes of coke bottles to customers at a time, which almost weigh 60kg. The Unions indicate that this practice which is definitely related to employment of optimum workers and readjustment of sales target violates the Law. These concerns raised from workplaces will be dealt with during the three Unions meeting to make a proposal for 2012 CBA renewal negotiations and/or quarterly joint labour-management conferences. The Unions stressed that in order to win their demands and solve these concerns, unity is essential