Coca-Cola Indonesia exploits COVID-19 lock-down to impose secret collective agreement, undercutting the rights and benefits of 6,000 workers

As Indonesia moved into lock-down in late March, Coca-Cola management secretly signed a new national collective agreement with the pro-management national union structure created decades ago during the Suharto military dictatorship to suppress workers' rights. This agreement effectively imposes new terms and conditions on more than 6,000 Coca-Cola workers without any of them being able to obtain a copy of the actual agreement and read it.

Using the COVID-19 social restrictions as a reason for not convening any meetings to inform workers about the new agreement, management then arranged for workers to be informed through their supervisors (a process called "socialization" in Indonesia). Workers were shown a video and PowerPoint of the highlights, and were then instructed to sign a document indicating their acceptance of the agreement. Workers could not get a hard or soft copy of the agreement itself, but only a copy of the PowerPoint highlights.

As the the COVID-19 pandemic escalated in April and May and lock-down measures were tightened in several cities, management continued to collect signatures from workers for their legal approval of the new agreement. Coca-Cola Indonesia - which is wholly owned by Coca-Cola Amatil in Australia - has refused to negotiate genuine workplace collective agreements with independent unions and terminated the leaders of independent unions. Even while the Department of Labor reaffirmed the status of these terminated union leaders as elected union representatives with the right to represent their members, Coca-Cola management refused to reply to their requests to discuss COVID-19 safety measures in the workplace.

The consequences of this latest secret deal are only now emerging. Transportation subsidy - a fixed allowance that is directly related to living costs in Indonesia - was suddenly cut by 76%, despite the critical importance of travel to and from Coca-Cola factories in the COVID-19 pandemic. Management announced that this was implemented according to the national agreement. Workers are worried that more cuts will come. Since management has already compelled workers to legally accept an agreement they have not seen, Coca-Cola can continue to arbitrarily slash benefits and remove rights in the name of this secret agreement.

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