Published: 12/07/2011

In a meeting between Coca-Cola Philippines Bottlers Inc. (CCBPI) management and the IUF-affiliated Alliance of Coca-Cola Unions Philippines (ACCUP) on 14 June, the company committed to 741 new permanent jobs in 2012. This will be the first step in reversing more than a decade of outsourcing and casualization that destroyed permanent jobs and drastically reduced union membership in 19 bottling plants and distribution centres across the country.

The expectation that the 100% takeover of CCBPI by TCCC in 2007 would lead to a shift away from the “disposable jobs” system and rebuild unionized jobs quickly led to disappointment. Local management continued rampant outsourcing and casualization practices and union density in plants and distribution centres continued to fall. In response ACCUP organized and campaigned for the next 4 years under the slogan “Regular Workers are an Endangered Species – Stop Outsourcing & Contractualization”. This local organizing and mobilization was coordinated with IUF interventions in Atlanta and support from the IUF Global Coca-Cola Workers’ Alliance.

A breakthrough in 2009 with the creation of 1,800 new permanent jobs in sales and distribution was short-lived when local management ran a systematic disinformation campaign to make the newly hired Account Developers (ADs) and Market Developers (MDs) believe they were not allowed to join a union. It took another year of pressure, organizing and campaigning to finally ensure that CCBPI guaranteed that ADs/MDs have the right to join the union.

As recruitment of ADs/MDs into unions finally took off (with local management at some sites still interfering and engaging in union-busting), ACCUP focused on casualization in the bottling plants, again in close coordination with IUF. In 2010, ACCUP made a detailed and compelling presentation to CCBPI management on the reality in the bottling plants, showing the permanent and casual employment status for each job category on each shift.

ACCUP also challenged the excessive use of 5 month fixed-term contract workers on the newly introduced 3rd shifts. At that time management claimed “there is no budget” for permanent workers on the new 3rd shift! ACCUP, with IUF support, criticized this and demanded that the new 3rd shifts – part of the TCCC’s new US$1 billion investment in the Philippines – should actually create decent jobs!

Just two days after the IUF-TCCC meeting in Atlanta on 13 October, the Canlubang Coca-Cola Plant Employees Union, a member of ACCUP, was the first to report that management called a meeting to discuss with the union plans to stop the excessive use of casual workers on the 3rd shift and resolve the issue of “full manning” of each shift in the first quarter of 2011. This was an important achievement, and the Canlubang Coca-Cola Plant Employees Union expressed its thanks to IUF and the IUF Global Coca-Cola Workers’ Alliance.

National-level negotiations between ACCUP and CCBPI, backed by ongoing campaigning and IUF representation of ACCUP’s concerns in Atlanta, led to the 14 June commitment to introduce 741 new permanent positions in the bottling plants in 2012.

ACCUP sees this as just the first step in restoring decent jobs and union rights in the Philippines, and remains wary of management backtracking on its commitment. Given the recent experience of the newly hired ADs/MDs, ACCUP has also made it clear that it will not tolerate any attempts to make these 741 jobs “non-union”.