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

Food price storm will continue - Coke boss

High commodity and food prices were unlikely to calm down any time soon, Muhtar Kent, the president of Coca-Cola, said yesterday

Prices were rising due to a "perfect storm" of conditions including countries diversifying to ethanol, growing demand from emerging companies and weather factors, Kent said. The conditions "are here to stay for some time".

"We will certainly make sure that we take every precautionary step to make sure that we keep growing," said Kent, who takes over as the US beverage giant's chief executive on July 1.

Food prices have risen rapidly this year, raising particular fears in the developing world. World Bank president Robert Zoellick has said 2 billion people across the world are struggling with high food prices, and 100 million people in poor countries may be pushed deeper into poverty.
Kent said Coca-Cola had been hit by higher prices for raw materials such as sugar and fructose, which is commonly made from maize.

The company would look to grow organically and through foreign acquisitions to offset stagnant demand in its home market. About 80 percent of its revenue was generated outside North America. "Our target is to have many more billion-dollar brands and enhance our current 13 brands," Kent said. But he did not expect the company to diversify into alcoholic drinks.

Outsourced workers fight for regularization, join ACCUP-IUF

Today 40 workers who’ve worked for Coca-Cola Philippines for up to 15 years through a fake third-party contractor have escalated their fight for direct, regular employment by joining a union in the IUF-affiliated Alliance of Coca-Cola Unions Philippines (ACCUP).

For the past two decades Coca-Cola Bottlers Philippines Inc (CCBPI) has increased the use of third-party contractors to operate its sales, distribution, warehousing and logistics. Today more workers are employed through these contractors than the entire sales and delivery workforce employed directly by CCBPI. But far from being independent, specialized logistics companies they are just labour agencies and the actual operations are run by CCBPI. The result? Thousands of drivers, helpers, checkers, dispatchers and forklift operators work for CCBPI but aren’t CCBPI employees. That means no health insurance, no medical benefits, no pensions, no social insurance, no overtime pay - and no responsibility for CCBPI as an employer. Crucially, these workers are also denied the rights, benefits and protection that union members are entitled to under collective bargaining agreements.

As the experience of 150 workers at a CCBPI warehouse in Manila operated by a third-party contractor shows, even getting their wages is a struggle. Faced with unpaid wages for 2 to 3 months workers found that their “employer” had no money and it as actually CCBPI that was paying them. In response to a petition filed in the National Conciliation and Mediation Board (NCMB), the so-called logistics company declared that the workers are “piece rate workers”, not regular workers. This is despite the fact they’ve worked for 4 to 15 years, and some even 20 years. Even more incredible is the fact that the “head office” of this company is located inside of the CCBPI sales office in Bagumbayan, Quezon City.

In March 2008, 53 of the 150 workers were assisted by Labor Education And Research Network (LEARN) and ACCUP to file legal cases against CCBPI to recognize their legal right to direct, regular employment. CCBPI’s immediate (and predictable) response was to deny any employment relationship with the workers.

As the next step in their campaign to win regular employment status, more than 40 workers signed union membership forms today to join the Coca-Cola Sales Force Union (CCSFU) in Makati City, Manila, a member of the IUF-affiliated Alliance of Coca-Cola Unions Philippines (ACCUP). Dozens more will join in the next few days.

Alden Manalusan (centre), President of the Coca-Cola Sales Force Union (CCSFU), presides over a ceremony in which precarious workers sign union membership forms. David Magnetico (right, red shirt) has worked directly and indirectly for CCBPI for 20 years but the company doesn’t recognize him as an employee. Also signing up to join the union are Zaldy Japson, Estanilao Alagarne, Ricky Liporada and Ariel Elase (standing)

Zaldy Japson, Estanilao Alagarne, Ricky Liporada, Ariel Elase and David Magnetico attended the first national conference of Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Cola unions organized by the IUF under the theme: All Filipino Cola Unions Let’s Unite, Defend our Democratic and Trade Union Rights!

Coca-Cola to invest US$50m in Kenya

9 May 2008 | Source: just-drinks.com editorial team

The Coca-Cola Company has announced it is to invest US$50m in the expansion and up-scaling of its bottling lines across Kenya.

The investment, one of the largest capital investments made by Coca-Cola in Kenya in any single year so far, expresses the company's confidence in its economy, Adeola Adetunji, general manager East Africa franchise said yesterday (8 May).

"Our contribution to Kenya's social and economic development is long-term and deliberate, hence our level of capital investment in the country", said Adetunji.

The company said it sees Kenya as a viable investment destination and in the long term is confident its investment will yield positive returns.

"We are confident about the future prospects of doing business in Kenya. The Coca-Cola East & Central Africa business runs 27 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and Kenya is the regional hub for our business in this region. Long term growth prospects in the country can be seen," said a spokesperson for Coca-Cola.

Although the business in Kenya was adversely affected by the post election violence, the drinks giant said it was pleased it could see progressive stability in its operating landscape.

Daryl Wilson, managing director of Nairobi Bottlers said that the new bottling lines will enhance capacity, increase production efficiency and ensure improved packaging.

"This latest investment will give us the ability to provide the very best quality beverages though out the year and will also seek to maintain our position as a world-class manufacturer," he said.

The company said staff are currently being trained on how to handle the new machinery ahead of the commissioning and is expected to be operational later this year.

This week Coca-Cola confirmed it had signed a letter of intent to acquire a number of water and energy_drink brands in Denmark and Finland from regional bottling partner Carlsberg.

The brands include Kildevaeld, Kurvand and Ramlosa in Denmark, the soft drink Hyvaa Paivaa and energy drink Battery in Finland.

CHINA: Authorities “blacklist” Nestlé, P&G, Coca-Cola products

12 May 2008 | Source: just-food.com

China's General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (GAQSIQ) has reportedly blacklisted products from companies including Procter & Gamble, Coca-Cola and Nestlé over safety concerns.

According to local reports, in January and February GAQSIQ tests found that 593 imported food products were not safe for human consumption.

The safety watchdog found two batches of P&G's Pringles potato chips were contaminated with the carcinogen potassium bromate, beetles were discovered in coffee beans imported from Vietnam by Nestle's Dongguan Branch Company and Coca-Cola's Fanta was found to contain unacceptable levels of benzoic acid.

Retailers who knowingly sell blacklisted products will be fined CNY50,000 (US$7154.41), the governmental watchdog warned.

Neither Nestlé nor P&G were available for comment as just-food went to press.