Workers at Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling Co (Coca-Cola HBC), organized in the IUF’s Irish affiliate SIPTU, have been walking the picket lines at 5 company distribution centers since August 27 in a tough struggle against a harsh attack on their working conditions.
In June, the company announced a plan to restructure operations by outsourcing the workplaces to third party providers with massively reduced terms and conditions for the outsourced employees. The “alternative” offer of keeping the jobs in CCHBC stipulated a reduction in terms and conditions amounting to up to 40% (Coca-Cola Hellenic: Workers pay, Shareholders profit from crisis). The union proposed talks to examine alternatives to outsourcing, but HBC rejected negotiations for a new agreement with jobs being performed by directly employed staff. Management insisted there was no alternative to outsourcing, and jobs would have to go.
SIPTU served strike notice on August 20 and took industrial action one week later. On September.8, 130 members were sacked despite the ongoing industrial dispute. The company then rejected as too “costly” the September 18 recommendations of the Labour Court to open negotiations on restructuring in line with past practice.
On October 7, the SIPTU congress called for international solidarity and support for its members at Coca-Cola HBC. SIPTU General President Jack O’Connor described the conflict at Coca-Cola as “Symptomatic of the drive in our society to solve the problems caused by gross mismanagement of the economy entirely at the expense of working people.” Calling for international protest, he said “We have to take the issues to them in Ireland, in the UK, in Europe and in the United States. We will be there, wherever they are.”
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