Precarious work, corporate integration, access to organizing and collective bargaining rights dominate latest IUF/Coca-Cola Atlanta meeting.

A team of IUF affiliates, led by IUF general secretary Ron Oswald met with senior labour relations management at Coca-Cola's headquarters in Atlanta. The meeting is the latest in the twice-yearly meetings that take place between the IUF "Contact Group" of affiliates and the company. The process has been formally recognized in a Joint Statement re-signed earlier this year at Coca-Cola headquarters.

At the recent meeting progress around precarious work was welcomed in a number of cases. In Pakistan all Coca-Cola bottling plants are now unionized and are now recognized by the company at the national level. Close to a thousand permanent jobs have been created in the Philippines and some progress made in India and Guatemala despite that problems were identified by the IUF in Poland and in many of the Coca-Cola operations in India and elsewhere. The twice-yearly meetings will continue to focus on this critical issue as the IUF pushes back precarious work in these major companies in which we have recognition.

Strong concerns were expressed about the way the integration of Coca-Cola Refreshments (CCR) which was previously CCE in North America. Examples of hostility to unions were discussed and a commitment secured from CCR and TCCC to work to improve relations with IUF affiliates in North America. Such a commitment needs to be monitored by the IUF and we will return with this issue at the next meeting planned for April 2012.

On a more general level the team raised concerns about the implementation of Coca-Cola's "2020 Vision", particularly the lack of clarity and explanation of how this plan for corporate growth, built in part on squeezing costs, might impact on workers. European IUF members see some form of "2020 Vision" emerging in bottling companies and requested that there be far better engagement with unions by the company and its bottlers around this emerging programme. Equally UI Zensen in Japan stressed the lack of coherence amongst the 12 Japanese bottlers and called for better coordination and communication on the part of TCCC in this regard.

Access to organizing and collective bargaining rights were discussed in a number of countries. In India, where the abusive use of contract workers in a concentrate plant denies them rights to organize, the IUF pressed the right of those workers to become permanent and to unionize. In Guatemala the IUF has secured TCCC's agreement to resolve all longstanding labour relations issues at the INCASA bottler there. At the EMBOCEN/FEMSA bottler IUF affiliated STECSA is under pressure to sign a poor CBA with FEMSA making signature a condition for much-needed investment in the plant and the distribution fleet. In the Philippines a union leader was disciplined for representing contract workers. Initially he was threatened with dismissal but after the IUF intervened he received a reprimand letter. The IUF though feels this is equally unacceptable given the principles involved. This led to a clarification from TCCC that they recognized that union representatives have every right to deal with the issues arising from the presence of contract workers in a plant and should face no consequences for doing so.

At the conclusion of the meeting all IUF team members made it clear they felt the ongoing IUF/Coca-Cola meetings were of value and recognized both the successes that arose from the "Atlanta Process" as well as the challenges that remain including our ongoing mandate to negotiate an International Framework Agreement with the Coca-Cola system.

 

 

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