Coca-Cola management in the Philippines is capitalizing on the coronavirus emergency to attack union leaders of the IUF-affiliated FCCU-SENTRO and intimidate their members with dismissals, disciplinary procedures and the use of police power.
While workers struggle with strict lockdown measures and a lethal pandemic, the company has ordered workers suspected of COVID-19 exposure to self-quarantine without pay. Workers at the Coca-Cola plant in San Fernando, Pampanga province, deeply concerned over the risk of infection following the death of a plant workers' close relative to whom he had been exposed, held an emergency union meeting in the changing room on March 28. Union leaders urged workers to comply with the government recommendations and stay home if they feared exposure or contaminating others, stating that they would respect workers' individual decisions.
Management retaliated on April 6-8 by disciplining 7 union officers and members at the San Fernando and Canlubang plants, including Alfredo Marañon, Belarmino Tulabut, and Danilo Pineda, charging them with "economic sabotage". The three leaders were terminated on May 8. FCCU-SENTRO General Secretary Brendo Enriquez wrote to Coke management on May 18 protesting the dismissals and sharing the communication with his members and with the IUF. He has been disciplined and faces termination. And management called on the police to break up a peaceful demonstration by workers protesting the dismissal of their union leaders on June 9. The protesting workers wore masks, respected social distancing and had agreed on procedures with the local police.
Coke operations in the Philippines are wholly owned by The Coca-Cola Company in Atlanta, USA. Responsibility for intimidation, dismissals and threats to our affiliate and its members lies squarely with The Coca-Cola Company.
Union representatives who assert their members' right to a safe workplace are not committing 'economic sabotage'. Unions have the right to communicate with their members and with the IUF and the right to peaceful assembly and protest.