Workers established their workplace union SYTBRACOUR in March 2017 at the Coca-Cola bottler owned by Couronne Brewery in Haiti. Since then they have been struggling to exercise trade union rights that are guaranteed by international standards and are included in the Coca-Cola Workplace Rights policy. The Coca-Cola bottler has consistently sought to deny its workers’ access to those rights. Four of the union’s leadership has been dismissed and the company has responded by telling the union they should simply elect new leaders.
Local management has stated in meetings with workers that they will act to destroy this fledgling union sooner or later by dismissing its leaders and members.
The bottler refuses to recognize SYTBRACOUR and refuses any serious dialogue to resolve any ongoing issues around rights violations and poor working conditions.
The union had previously raised excessive working hours that were not compliant with Haitian labour laws. In response to requests to discuss this issue management unilaterally terminated the contracts specifically for workers employed at production, shipping and laboratory departments where the majority of the union’s members were. The Coca-Cola Company (TCCC) has been told that all workers’ contracts were formally renewed but SYTBRACOUR confirms that more than 100 workers’ employment contracts were not renewed following the mass dismissals on March 15, 2018. Most of these dismissed workers were SYTBRACOUR members and 20 of them were active union leaders and supporters.
Following the reduction of excessive and illegal working hours, the brewery imposed new working schedules which result in some workers to leave work at 22h00. Haiti has serious security issues, particularly at night with no electricity and no public transportation available for its people. Workers whose shift ends at 22h00 are scared to go back home and therefore are forced to sleep on the ground in the factory premises when they need to start working again at 6h00.
Following audits done by TCCC, its bottler’s local practices that were not compliant with the Haitian labour law were changed. This included raising the salaries of sales assistants that were lower than the legal minimum wage. However these sales assistants still do not benefit from health and social security insurance. As no health premium is paid for them, when they suffer from an accident, sales assistants pay medical costs from their own pockets and sometimes drivers even help them financially.
Since November 2015, sales assistants have no ID’s to enter and use the company facilities and as a result they are forced to relieve themselves on the ground around the factory premises. They also have no uniforms. There is no schedule of working hours for them. Most of them have to leave home at 4-5am and wait in front of the factory gate for their daily work assignments from the drivers. They work 6 days a week and often they are asked to come to work on Sundays, too. The company gives money to drivers and drivers pay the sales assistants. They work until 6-7pm and unload bottles for customers and collect empty bottles. There are no lifts to unload the products and to load the empty bottles so they do all the lifting work manually.
The IUF has repeatedly brought these violations to the attention of TCCC. However the company has done little or nothing to ensure that its bottler is in brought into compliance with international human rights standards and with TCCC’s own workplace rights policy. It is time for far more robust action by TCCC to act to ensure that these ongoing human rights violations are remedied by restoring the rights of dismissed union leaders and workers and recognizing and negotiating with SYTBRACOUR in Haiti.