IUF | Coca-Cola Workers Network | Monthly : February 2005

Canadian Soft Drink Workers Council

The 2004 annual meeting of the Canadian Soft Drink Workers Council was held in St. John's, Newfoundland, on September 23-24, 2004. Ten local unions at Coca-Cola and Pepsi bottling plants from the CAW, UFCW, NAPE and Teamsters unions were represented at the meeting.

Information about the Council and minutes of the meeting are available from Council Chairperson Dale Hauck of CAW Local 350.

From open war to dirty war

St. Petersburg management continues to delay negotiations with local trade unions. Black Public Relations (PR) distributed at the plant.

The tense relationship in St. Petersburg, Russia, between plant and regional trade unions on the one hand, local Coca-Cola management on the other hand has further deteriorated.

The union was formed about 1½ years ago. It signed a collective agreement in July 2004. However, this does not contain necessary regulation on wages and other vital issues. Management denies the plant union already several months negotiations on wage bargaining, refuses basic information. The union filed several complaints on violations of working schedules and pay legislation to the union labour inspectorate, state labour inspectorate, and court.
Several facts of violations of union rights, including the temporary removal of a union board, the forming of a “works council” excluding union members, and harassment of union members have been reported and documented (see previous postings on the issue).
There is a constant practice by HR management of not keeping agreements as well as and oral written promises.

Current situation>
1. Meeting cancelled on short notice

To solve the tense situation and discuss current problems, the Agro-Industrial Workers City Union had proposed a meeting with local management. On Tuesday 15 february, local HR manager Solovieva proposed the AWU city committee a meeting, to take place on Friday, 18.Feb, 15.30 at the union hall.
However, the meeting was cancelled on Friday morning by Coca-Cola management on the reason of “a delegation from Atlanta having arrived and meetings scheduled the whole day”.
A phone call to the plant did not change this decision, although it was pointed out that IUF representative Gisela Neunhöffer had arrived for the meeting.
Although management did not deny a meeting in principle, but wanted to delay, this is perceived by local unions a continued denial of bona fide relations, as this is common practice. Management did not come back with further proposals to meet since.

2. Union chairman denied access to the plant
In the evening of Friday, 18 Feb., local plant union chairman V. Okhrimenko was denied access to the plant, when he arrived for union matters.
An order had been issued denying workers not on shift access to the plant, and especially pointing out that workers on sick leave must not enter the plant.
There is clear evidence of discrimination of union activity, as Okhrimenko is on sick leave, suffering from paralysation of this left hand after a work accident. He suffers from an injury, not an infectious disease. He is undergoing medical treatment, but on an ambulatory regime, and his doctor does not tell him to stay at home.
On the other hand, other workers on sick leave have entered the plant without having problems
The Union committee has send a letter to management, protesting the issue, and will take further legal steps if access is not granted in the next days.

3. Dirty PR distributed
Two documents aimed at discrediting the union have appeared in the plant.
- a court ruling against Okhrimenko from 2001 has been put up two official information boards and the union board. After the union protested this clear violation of a union leaders privacy, the documents were removed from the board. The union demands full of clarification of who put up the documents on official boards that usually are used only by administration.
- Workers found in their lockers an article from the “Sovietskaya Rossiya” newspaper, retrieved from a site in the internet, regarding elections to the St. Petersburg trade union federation redistribution and alleged ambitions of candidates to sell trade union property (real estate). While in the original article on the net AWU City committee chairwoman Olga Mikhailovna Fugol had not been mentioned, the version distributed anonymously a the plant contained a “remark” at the end about her “being part of the team of the former federation chairman and near to the team of the new federation chairman”, including mistaken information about her work biography and her name (“Olga Alexandrovna Fugol”). The remark was edited in such a way as if it were the last paragraph of the original article. Only after comparing it became clear that this remark was added. Again, the union will demand clarification who distributed the documents.

4. Negotiation and information requests filed, no answer received
The union has filed three letters to management on Monday Feb. 14:
1. A request to start wage bargaining
2. A repeated request for
3. A letter protesting continuing violations of work schedules regulation. A court case on the matter is pending. Company lawyer Lobastov has told union activists that complained about violations to go to court, as he was not going to decide matters locally.
However, it didn’t receive any answer until now, although the legal period for an answer has expired.

5. The Works Council issue is still pending. Management held a workers meeting forcing workers to vote in favour of a new constitution of the bodies. Active union members were not allowed into the meeting.

In this situation, unions will take further legal steps and contemplate further activity to make the administration return to a constructive relationship with the union.

European Coordination Group Meets

The European Coordination Committee of Coca-Cola unions and works councils met at noon on Tuesday 22 February at the EFFAT office in Brussels.

The agenda included
1) an update on the Coca-Cola Company and its global relations with the IUF
2) Purpose and powers of the Coordination group
3) Rules for internal functioning
4) Strategy
5) Next steps

The Committee was briefed on the upcoming meeting on 15 March in Atlanta between the Coca-Cola Company and the IUF "Team," which includes Johan Botella of the NGG, who represents the CCEAG Works Council on the European Committee.

This was the first meeting of the European Coordination Committee, which was created at the EFFAT/FLAI-CGIL Conference on Coca-Cola held at Rome in November 2004. The conference reached these conclusions:

Coca-Cola European Coordination Group
November 2004

 Share information and experience/expertise to assist employees in Europe,
 Elaborate and implement joint strategies
 Support IUF / EFFAT actions
 Share information, experiences and strategy development with Coke unions in other regions by assuring communications through the IUF with Coke unions and project coordinators in other regions.

 Employee chairperson and EFFAT coordinator of each EWC,
 1 Employee representative from Germany and Spain
 Expert

 TCCC Gerry Farrell (concentrate, Drogheda, SIPTU) + Uwe Witt (NGG)
 (substitute Jan-Vidar Hansen, Norwegian Bottler)

 CCE Christian Jurcenoks (CFDT) + Bjorn Desmet (FGTB)
 (substitute: Alain van Peteghem, FGTB)

 CCHBC ? (present chairperson not EFFAT affiliate + Vincenzo Sgalla (FLAI - CGIL)
 Germany: Johan Botella (President of central works council)
 Spain Jesus Calderon (Alicante bottler, UGT)
 Expert Marcello Ries

 Aim is 2 times/year

 Each member bears own travel cost, unless EU funding available
 Expert shall be remunerated through company, where possible

As it is unlikely that all EFFAT coordinators will be available to attend meetings, the substitutes should be invited on a permanent basis.

At the IUF Global Strategy Meeting on Coca-Cola that immediately followed the EFFAT conference, the European delegates present agreed on the principle that the European Coordination Council should maintain and develop communications with the rest of the IUF's Coca-Cola network.

Representatives of European unions and works councils that have developed relationships with Coke management agreed to push within those channels to press the Coca-Cola company to have global negotiations with the IUF, as well as to show solidarity with Coca-Cola unions facing problems in other regions.

Hong Kong Coke Union Wins More Permanent Employees

The Swire Beverages (HK) Employees General Union has successfully negotiated with Swire Beverages HK Ltd and Coca Cola HK Ltd to change 130 casual workers to permanent status effective December 2004.

The 130 new permanent workers coming from many different departments, are now eligible for annual bonuses, medical coverage for themselves and their families, hardship allowance and increased annual leave.