Berlin: Coca-Cola workers protest in front of CCEAG headquarters

Some 1000 demonstrators gathered at Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate on Saturday, May 9, and headed for the headquarters of CCEAG, Germany’s Coca-Cola Bottler. Workers from Coca-Cola locations in Kaiserslautern and Münster were joined by colleagues from other Coca-Cola locations, fellow NGG trade unionists, as well as solidarity delegations from Opel, Reichelt, and other factories equally threatened with closure. Together, they brought a clear and loud message to management: they are not ready to make their peace with the decision to close the two production locations.
Earlier, demonstrations had taken place locally – in Kaiserslautern joined by 2500 people from the local community. Political support is being mobilized as well.

Coca-Cola intends to cut workplaces at the two locations despite an agreement with the trade union that nobody will be made redundant until the end of 2009 – the company says it will propose alternative workplaces, which however can be up to 120 km away. The union’s lawyers commented at the demonstration “We call this cold redundancies, because the objective is to make people leave despite the current agreement”.

In front of the headquarter entrance, speakers from NGG, the General works council, the two locations, politicians and supporting organizations denounced the decision to close the two factories, which actually work profitably, and stressed that this move to save costs which was easily wiped out by the increased concentrate prices charged by the The Coca-Cola Company.
The social consequences of de facto forcing workers, many of which have been working for decades at Coca-Cola, into unemployment in crisis-ridden regions would be severe: especially for workers over 40 years it would be practically impossible to find new jobs.

“As millions of profits are deemed not enough, they are cutting down workplaces. We are united here by fighting for workplaces, for an income with which we can feed our families”, said Claus-Harald Guester, NGG vice president.

Speakers emphasized that the two locations are producing returnable bottles which are more ecological, and also provide more work places than one-way-bottles. Closing both locations would also increase transport volumes in the regions, when soft drinks would have to be brought into the regions from outside after local production was cut down.

It was also stressed that the decision to slash production was showing the wrong direction by cutting on Coca-Cola’s core competences.

Johan Botella, General works council chairman, said – “We are here representing all the other locations as well that are threatened with closure. We are preparing for difficult negotiations next year in order to defend employment security, and we are sending a strong message to management – prepare for that fight, because we will stand united in solidarity!”

Representatives from the two locations were very clear “We give a damn for the compensation, we want to keep our workplaces!” said Joachim Reichenbach, works council member from Kaiserslautern.

Protesters had brought posters saying “Coca-Cola takes away my Daddy’s work and bread”, “Workplaces get destroyed and the country stays with the lorry emissions” “We will go to Atlanta – yes, we can!”, ”Profit greed floors factories – we`re fed up, we`ve had enough of this”, Some protesters wore T-Shirts with “Coca-Cola – Profit Vultures”, Stickers and buttons demanded “Coca-Cola must stay in Kaiserslautern”.

Some had come with their families as well. Children wore T-Shirts saying – “Coca-Cola has no heart for us children!”.

The protests will continue.
You can watch a video and see pictures from the demonstration on the NGG website (in German)
More pictures are here.

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