IUF | Coca-Cola Workers Network | Monthly : March 2006

BELGIUM: Coca-Cola Enterprises workers vote for negotiated agreement

After a whole whole day of discussions with management, on March 21 Belgian CCE workers voted in favour of the agreement negotiated by their unions. Some workers will be transferred to other CCE facilities while others will accept an early retirement package. This was the third of a series of restructurings that hit CCE operations in Belgium between 2005-2006. This one led to the closure of three distribution centres in the towns of Oostkamp, Barchon and Evere. Workers will be transferred to the Anvers and Gosselies sites. The net loss of employment amounted to 50 jobs.

Summary agreement in FRENCH
Summary agreement in DUTCH

Among the conditions negotiated by the unions with CCE for transferred workers are:

- compensation for travel expenses
- creation of an employment task-force
- retraining and language classes
- mantainance of the same union representatives until next elections

In case of new retrenchments at the Anvers and Gosselies sites CCE agreed on:
- hold 1 month minimum negotiations with unions
- pay redundant workers an indemnization of 750€ foR each year of service

Affiliate of IUF-supported Federation of Food, Beverage and Tobacco Workers wins bargaining mandate at Pakistan's largest bottling plant

On 14 March 2006, the Coca Cola Beverages Staff and Workers Union at Pakistan's largest bottling plant in Karachi won a mandate from a majority of workers to act as the collective bargaining agent for the next 3 years.

The Coca Cola Beverages Staff and Workers Union was registered in 1997 and ran against the incumbent union, winning the support of workers to become the collective bargaining agent for three consecutive referendums.

As a founding member of the newly created National Federation of Food, Beverage and Tobacco Workers, which is supported by the IUF [See 'Nestle and Coca-Cola Unions in Pakistan join Founding Congress of the National Federation of Food, Beverage and Tobacco Workers'], the Coca Cola Beverages Staff and Workers Union has continued to play a crucial role in supporting Coca-Cola unions throughout the country. In the past the union has provided vital support to Coca-Cola workers at the Rahimyar Khan and Gujranwala bottling plants. It was through this support that the Coca-Cola Beverages Employees Union at Rahimyar Khan was able to maintain its three-year struggle to reinstate its president, Brother Khalid Pervez, as well as another union officer and union member who were unfairly dismissed. [See 'Pakistan Coca-Cola Union President Returns to Work with Back Wages After Unjust Dismissal Over Three Years Ago'.]

After wining the referendum, the General Secretary of the Coca Cola Beverages Staff and Workers Union, Brother Safeer Mughal, and the union’s President, Brother Abdul Hai Niazi, thanked the workers for their support and assured them that the union will struggle for their legal rights, better working conditions and wages. They said the union will continue its struggle to unite Coca-Cola unions in Pakistan and will continue to work closely with IUF.

Coca-Cola unions in the Philippines sign historic agreement on unity & solidarity

On 21 January 2006, an historic agreement was signed between the IUF-affiliated Alliance of Coca-Cola Unions Philippines (ACCUP) and the Consolidation of All Independent Labour Unions (CAILU) under which Coca-Cola unions across the country will launch a national campaign against job losses resulting from forced early retirement, outsoucing and contractualization.

ACCUP-IUF and CAILU, representing 20 and 17 plant-levels Coca-Cola unions respectively, will undertake a series of joint activities to build national unity and strength among Coca-Cola workers at a time of significant jobs destruction and insecurity.

In 2005 CAILU participated in a series of discussions and forums with the IUF Asia-Pacific Regional Coordinator for the Nestle/Coca-Cola Global Project (NCCGP) and the ACCUP executive leadership. CAILU delegates expressed a strong interest in IUF’s company-wide organizing strategies, particularly the joint statement with CCC that establishes biannual consultations in Atlanta. Under the new ACCUP-CAILU coordinating structure, the 17 affiliates of CAILU will add their support to ACCUP members’ demands for an end to outsourcing and casualisation, the regularization of precarious workers, and an end to the early retirement schemes being forced upon their members.

Below is the full text of the ‘Joint Unity Agreement Between Alliance of Coca-Cola Unions Philippines and Consolidation of All Independent Labour Unions (CAILU) signed on 21 January 2006:

Background and Purpose

This Joint Unity Agreement has been developed to foster closer coordination and cooperation between ACCUP-IUF and CAILU, the former a national grouping of 20 incumbent unions (federated and independent) mostly in the Visayas and Mindanao, and the latter a bloc of 17 incumbent non-affiliated unions mostly based in Northern Luzon.

These two umbrella organizations represent a huge portion of unionized workforce in the Coca-Cola Bottlers Philippines Inc. (CCBPI), the soft beverage arm of San Miguel Corp. (SMC), the leading food and beverage firm in the Philippines. On the other hand, CCBPI remains the country’s top beverage company, belongs to the top 20 Philippine corporations, and is one of the world’s top 10 Coca-Cola bottling companies. The “mother company” of CCBPI, like all other Coke bottlers in other countries, is The Coca-Cola Co. (CCC), which is based in Atlanta, Georgia, in the United States.

“Globalization” has given rise to fiercer cut-throat competitions between businesses throughout the world. Old and new corporate programs aimed at further increasing profits and slashing operating costs have been intensified. These have resulted to the displacement of tens of thousands of regular and unionized workers, substantial reduction of benefits and real wages, and systematic weakening of the trade unions. Since the late 1990s, for instance, the CCBPI has implemented a series of nationwide programs that drastically reduced the number of regular workers, most of them union members.

Thus, there is a very real threat not only against the Coke workers’ economic well-being but also their job security, or the very existence and survival of the regular workforce and the trade unions in CCBPI. More than ever, the different unions here must forge unity lest the regular workers and their unions totally disappear in CCBPI workplaces in the near future.

Agreement on Joint Undertakings

As a response to the said situation, CAILU and ACCUP have resolved to strive for and implement as soon as possible the following:

1. Establishment of a coordinating structure (committee or group, etc.), which will be staffed by an equal number of representatives from ACCUP and CAILU, and will act as the two groups’ official joint body and will be tasked to oversee their joint activities.

2. Sharing or exchange of pertinent data or documents and other forms of information that could assist the respective member unions of CAILU and ACCUP in their various grievance cases, disputes with management, CBA negotiations, etc.

3. Joint activities or mobilizations (local, national, international) that would highlight the promotion and protection of the labor and trade union rights of CCBPI workers, such as campaigns versus the CCBPI’s rampant use of contractualization, outsourcing, and anti-“redundancy” measures.

4. Co-sponsoring seminars or forums or symposia or conferences or other forms of education and information dissemination, which would explain and help popularize the issues and concerns of CCBPI workers to the CCBPI workers themselves as well as to the public.

5. Other joint undertakings deemed necessary by the joint CAILU-ACCUP coordinating body.

These joint undertakings will be officially sanctioned by both CAILU and ACCUP upon signing of this agreement today, January 20, 2006, in Manila. The two undersigned fixed their signatures in behalf and with the concurrence of their respective organizations ACCUP and CAILU.



Coca-Cola unions in Pakistan fight for re-opening of plants and job security

Unions at the franchised Coca-Cola bottling operations in Rawalpindi and Peshawar are continuing their fight re-open the plants after the franchise licenses were terminated by Coca-Cola Pakistan. Over 200 union members are without work following the suspension of operations at the Peshawar plant in July 2005 and the Rawalpindi plant on 31 December 2005.

Immediately after the closures the Peshawar and Rawalpindi unions, both affiliates of the newly founded National Federation Food, Beverage & Tobacco Workers supported by the IUF, fought to secure payment of all wages-in-arrears and other benefits while at the same time meeting with the management of Coca-Cola Pakistan to seek guarantees that the plants will be re-opened.

The Peshawar and Rawalpindi unions are particularly concerned about security of tenure during the takeover by CCC. Based on past experience, when the Rahimyar Khan and Karachi operations were taken over by CCC from franchise companies, all employees were retrenched and re-hired as “new” employees, therefore losing long-service employment status (and related entitlements).

On February 21, 2006, working closely with Brother Qamar ul Hassan of the IUF Pakistan Outreach Office, Brother Nazar Hussain Shah, President of National Federation of Food, Beverage and Tobacco Workers, visited the Rawalpindi plant and addressed a union assembly. Brother Nazar also met with the plant manager and demanded that wages-in-arrears be paid immediately. When the manager claimed that there was no money left, Brother Nazar told him to sell any scrap metal which the manager did the following day, raising enough money to pay the wages owed to 50 out of 62 union members.

The National Federation of Food, Beverage and Tobacco Workers has also provided legal support for the Rawalpindi union, threatening legalk action against the management for unpaid wages. Brother Nazar and the General Secretary of Coca Cola Rawalpindi then proceeded to the Peshawar plant to lend the support and solidarity of the Federation.

IUF and Coca-Cola agreement to request United Nations' ILO to conduct independent investigation of Coca-Cola labour practices in Colombia

The IUF has consistently expressed serious concerns about labour relations practices in the Coca-Cola system's Colombian operations. Like others, we have supported the call for an independent investigation (rather than a Coca-Cola initiated internal assessment) as the only adequate response to reported serious rights violations. The IUF has now secured agreement with The Coca-Cola Company that both parties shall request the United Nations, through its International Labour Organization (ILO), to conduct such an investigation.

The ILO, as the UN specialized agency responsible for developing and promoting international labour standards, is clearly the appropriate body to investigate the degree to which these internationally-recognized standards are in practice respected by the Coca-Cola system in Colombia.

The investigation will be in the hands of the ILO. The modalities and the findings of such an investigation will not be influenced by the IUF, The Coca-Cola Company or any part of the Coca-Cola system. Our purpose is to ensure that workers throughout the Coca-Cola system in Colombia can fully exercise the rights which are set out in the United Nations' ILO human and labour rights standards. We anticipate that the results of an ILO investigation will provide a credible basis on which to concretely address any issues that arise from the investigation.

The IUF has requested the ILO to conduct such an independent investigation. Based on the agreement with the company that we reached at our latest meeting on February 28 in Atlanta, we understand Coca-Cola will do the same.