Published: 06/03/2003

The first IUF Global Coca-Cola Workers’ meeting concluded its two-day meeting in New York City on March 4 with a strong affirmation of IUF members’ determination to fight for trade union rights and decent working conditions for all workers inside the global Coca-Cola system. Delegates representing over 100 unions from 23 countries took part in the meeting representing a significant part of the IUF’s global membership inside the company. The meeting was held with the support of Friedrich Ebert Foundation (FES) of Germany.

The meeting was convened by the IUF to consolidate and develop the IUF’s trade union strength inside the world’s largest beverage company. Top of the agenda was the need to continue the IUF’s committed defence of trade union rights throughout the global Coca-Cola system.

The meeting also looked at the serious collective bargaining challenges faced by union representing Coca-Cola workers around the world. Principal amongst these in all regions of the world were casualization, jobs losses through restructuring, outsourcing and deteriorating work conditions in response to the company’s drive for flexibility and increased productivity.

IUF general secretary Ron Oswald placed the detailed discussion of the current situation inside Coca-Cola in the context of the IUF’s global policies and activities within major transnational companies.

Participants heard reports of union rights violations in Colombia where union representatives had been arbitrarily fired following the signing of a collective agreement at the Coca-Cola bottler in Carepa, Urabá. Participants also heard about repeated union busting in Pakistan and, in response to an attack on fundamental union rights by the local bottler at the Moscow Coca-Cola plant, participants adopted a solidarity resolution in support of the IUF’s affiliate in Russia and its members at Coca-Cola.

The second day’s discussion included presentations by David Schilling of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility and John Wilson of the Christian Brothers Investment Services who described their efforts to use shareholder pressure to push Coca Cola to respect human rights throughout the company’s system. The delegates at the meeting expressed support for a common approach and close coordination between their work and that of the IUF in this area.

A full discussion of international and local union strategies on gaining guarantees for basic rights and decent conditions took place amongst delegates in smaller working groups. In a final full session of the meeting delegates unanimously adopted a strategy and action programme centred on mobilizing affiliates locally, regionally and internationally in support of the IUF’s efforts to engage with Coca-Cola in order to secure minimum standards on trade union rights and recognition for unions within the company system.

Delegates left New York expressing strong enthusiasm and commitment to take the meeting’s message back to their members in Coca-Cola around the world and to mobilize support for a sustained and determined campaign.