IUF | Coca-Cola Workers Network | Monthly : March 2008

Philippines: Supreme Court decision boosts legal cases against CCBPI's illegal dismissal of more than 900 union members

Earlier this year the Supreme Court ruled that Coca-Cola Bottlers Philippines Inc (CCBPI) had denied the right to regular employment to seven workers and their subsequent dismissal was deemed illegal. This has set a crucial precedent for 14 separate legal cases filed by unions affiliated to the IUF. Together these cases cover the illegal dismissal of more than 900 union members.

In a crucial victory for workers, the Supreme Court decision issued on 31 January 2008 determined that seven sales route helpers employed by CCBPI were entitled to regular employment because the work undertaken was necessary or desirable to CCBPI’s usual business and was directly related to the company’s business and trade. In addition the Court ruled that:

“Being regular employees of respondent, petitioners are entitled to security of tenure, as provided in Article 279 of the Labor Code, and may only be terminated from employment due to just or authorized causes. Because respondent failed to show such cause, the petitioners are deemed illegally dismissed and therefore entitled to back wages and reinstatement without loss of seniority rights and other privileges.”

Dozens of similar cases are outstanding against CCBPI (now fully owned by The Coca-Cola Company - TCCC) as a result of two decades of systematic abuse of casual workers and a brutal outsourcing and casualization drive launched in 2000 that slashed thousands of unionized jobs.

Following the Supreme Court decision, the IUF-affiliated Alliance of Coca-Cola Unions Philippines (ACCUP) submitted a letter to the Secretary of Labor and Employment dated 8 March 2008 stating that CCBPI violated the law by outsourcing and subcontracting positions covered by the collective bargaining agreement, including:

"... salesmen, drivers, helpers, fountain salesmen, fountain sales technician, sales offices assistant, office clerks, refrigeration technician, transportation mechanic, advertising crew, store room helper, forklift operator, unloader, uncaserman, case cleaner, decapper, pre-infed inspector, soaker outfedman, soaker infedman, washed bottle inspector, chiplip inspector, bottle explosion candler, full goods inspector, electrician, preventive maintenance mechanic, warehouse helper...."

Currently there are 14 separate legal cases filed by ACCUP-affiliated unions involving more than 900 union members. This includes two cases now in the Supreme Court as well as another two cases in the Court of Appeals.

Click here to read the letter to the Secretary of Labor and a list of these 14 legal cases.

CHINA: Coca-Cola signs up to water partnership ( just-drinks.com)

20 March 2008 | Source: just-drinks.com editorial team

The_Coca-Cola_Company was today part of a public-private partnership that announced a collaborative project to address water issues in four water stressed provinces of China: Sichuan, Heilongjiang, Xinjiang and Liaoning.

The partnership to improve water access and sanitation has been made between the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Ministry of Water Resources (MWR), China International Centre for Economic and Technical Exchange (CICETE) under the Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) and The Coca-Cola Company.

The four-year, US$6.792m joint project aims to improve policy mechanisms by demonstrating a series of sound water resource management approaches on water rights management, water resources allocation as well as drinking water safety technologies, such as rebuilding of drainage pipelines and ecologically sustainable agricultural technologies for water conservation.

"We hope to achieve these improvements for the poor and the children. We hope we can achieve a heightened awareness at national, provincial, country and community levels of utilizing the technologies and practices and we hope to achieve succinct implementation of waterborne disease control, pollution control and environmental sustainability," said Khalid Malik, United Nations Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in China.

By August, the project will set up pilots in four primary schools in rural Sichuan and Xinjiang provinces where basic sanitation such as clean toilet do not yet exist and students must cope without access to safe and sufficient drinking water.

Significant efforts will be made to improve conditions in schools, in forms of installing sanitary toilets and applying health education and technical training on school health management in hopes to reduce the incidence of waterborne diseases and raise hygiene awareness and education amongst primary school students.

"The health of our business is directly linked to the health of the environment -- sustainable growth needs sustainable communities. Water is our most important ingredient and more urgently than ever before, we need to work together -- governments, civil society and businesses - to achieve water sustainability," said Paul Etchells, deputy group president of the Pacific Group, The Coca-Cola Company.

Coca Cola opens international quality testing laboratory in Gauteng

World number-one beverage maker Coca Cola on Friday launched a new $6-million (nearly R50-million) quality testing laboratory in Midrand, which it lauded as its most technologically advanced globally.

The facility would test Coca Cola products from 162 bottlers in 56 African countries and territories on a monthly basis, to make sure that their quality was on par with products from "New York, Paris, or London", a top official said at the launch function.

The Coca Cola Company, the most recognised brand in the world, would by the end of next year have four other such laboratories globally, located in Belgium, China, Mexico and the US.

"The bottom line for us is that we know exactly what's in our products, and we can verify it," Coca Cola South Africa president William Egbe said on a tour of the facility.

Minister of Science and Technology Mosibudi Mangena, who attended the launch, applauded the company's initiative as a "step in the right direction" for quality control in the region.

The facility offered analytical and technical support to bottlers in Africa, testing aspects including the torque of the bottle cap, gas volumes, temperature, pressure, and acid volumes.

One machine in the laboratory even had the capability of analysing a sample for volumes of the entire periodic table within three-and-a-half minutes, called an ICP-MS, or an inductively coupled plasma mass spectroscopy.

The Africa Technical Centre employed 32 full-time workers, creating 19 new positions, Coca Cola global quality analytical services director Robin Kumoluyi stated.

Meanwhile, Egbe said that Coca Cola's investment in the facility was an affirmation that the firm believed in South Africa as an investment destination, while countries were "clamouring" for foreign investment.

He said that South Africa was the basis for the company's opportunities across the rest of the continent.

Egbe stated that Coca Cola South Africa had "absolutely no doubt" about the country as an investment destination, and a place to do business.

Mangena noted that he was "reliably informed" that Coca Cola made a R8,4-billion direct contribution to gross domestic product (GDP) in the country, and that the group's direct and indirect contribution to the country's total GDP was 1,4%.

Union celebrates victory as 12 are re-employed

08032008 016_ss.jpg On 10 March the IUF-affiliated Coca-Cola Beverages Staff and Workers' Union, which organizes the company's Karachi bottling plant, celebrated a historic victory in Pakistan.

Twelve workers who were dismissed in the mass redundancies imposed by management in December 2006 returned to the factory to be re-employed and rejoin the union. This is the first time that this has happened in Pakistan. 08032008 018_ss.jpg

In December 2006, management at Coca-Cola Beverages Pakistan Limited (CCBPL, over 90% owned by the Coca-Cola Company), set out to reduce the union's bargaining strength through a radical reduction in the number of union members on the payroll. On December 9, 2006, CCBPL mailed letters to 153 employees telling them that their services were being terminated with immediate effect. The reason? The company had decided "to outsource the distribution, delivery and collection of the Company's products in the Karachi region to an independent distribution company, which activities were previously carried out by the Company…"

All 153 terminated employees were union members, including the President, Vice-President, Treasury Secretary and members of the management committee. The purpose of the exercise was political rather than operational. Agency workers in Pakistan can't join the Coca-Cola workers' union because they are formally employed by the agency, not by Coca-Cola.

The union fought back with a vigorous campaign, supported by the IUF and members internationally. The result was what the IUF reported on its website at the time as "significant progress", particularly for Pakistan: vastly improved severance terms and an agreement on job security and union rights signed on February 22, 2007 in Karachi between management and the union. The union followed this up with discussions with the 153 employees dismissed in the massive outsourcing exercise. Twelve of them expressed a desire to return to work, and the union fought for their re-employment.

The union's fight resulted in an agreement between the union, the IUF and Coca-Cola management. The 12 workers who had been terminated but wished to return would be eligible for re-employment one year after their termination (after one year the workers would be legally entitled to keep their severance pay). They would start as new employees, with no seniority.

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At exactly 12 pm on 1 March the 12 workers entered the Karachi factory gates and were welcomed by the union and IUF representatives. The return of the 12 was celebrated as a family homecoming, and they declared their thanks and commitment to the union.

In fact the union has now achieved three important victories never before seen in Pakistan:

1. the signing of an employment security agreement that defends the current number of permanent workers at the plant

2. the introduction of union dues based on a percantage (one per cent) rather than a fixed rate

3. the re-employment of workers previously made redundant under a “voluntary” retirement program

The union expressed its thanks to the IUF affilates around the world for supporting their struggle.
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