A core group of IUF affiliates met for the third global PepsiCo and Frito-Lay Unions strategy meeting in Istanbul on September 18 and 19, 2013.Union representatives discussed business developments within PepsiCo, now the world`s second largest food and beverage company in terms of food sales after Nestlè generating 65,492 (million USD) revenue in 2012. In addition to its fast growth in beverages and snacks in Asia, Middle East, and Africa after the acquisition of Wimm-Bill-Dann, a major Russian dairy and juice producer, and the joint venture with Theo Muller to operate a yoghurt plant in USA, PepsiCo is now investing more in its nutrition business. As of December 29, 2012, PepsiCo directly employed approximately 278,000 workers worldwide, 106,000 of whom are in the United States.
It became clear in the meeting that whilst PepsiCo acknowledges responsibility to its employees through vague policies like “human and talent sustainability“ as part of its much promoted “performance with purpose” strategy, but its labour relations policy falls short when it comes to the basic human rights of employees including the right form and join a union and a voice at global level.
PepsiCo`s brutal attack on fundamental human rights in India is a recent example of the company`s anti-union policy. Workers at West Bengal warehouses exclusively contracted by PepsiCo are still fighting for fairness and justice in the face of mass dismissals entirely as a result of exercising their right to join a union.
Union delegates of PepsiCo and Frito-Lay workers from different countries unanimously sent a solidarity message to support the struggle of these workers.
Ron Oswald, the IUF General Secretary outlined the difference today between PepsiCo and Coca-Cola businesses. “We’ve made – through long-standing struggle and tough negotiations – progress with Coca-Cola, Nestle, Unilever and, some of PepsiCo`s biggest competitors. IUF affiliates has been recognized internationally by these and other major food companies, though sometimes only after tough struggles. “It is time for PepsiCo to do the same, commented Oswald.
PepsiCo’s hostile approach to labour relations and unions is not limited to countries like India. It extends globally, including in Europe, with some exceptions mainly in its beverage division.
Meeting delegates discussed the issues facing members and identified common issues as well as the priorities for future work and action. Amongst many issues PepsiCo workers are confronted by the increasing levels of all forms of precarious work, a reluctance to recognize freedom of association and an anti-union attitude within the company notably in its Frito-Lay business. Given PepsiCo’s profile in snacks the network would identify more clearly PepsiCo snack brands, notably Frito Lay.
Specific challenges were raised by delegates and discussed. In Turkey, Tekgida-Is, the union organizing PepsiCo beverage workers, successfully organized Frito-Lay workers but during collective bargaining negotiations were threatened that production would be moved to other countries when union members demanded a fair wage increase.
The meeting agreed concrete action points and unanimously agreed to “stand together in solidarity against any attack on workers’ rights in PepsiCo”.