Coke Tunisia: Struggle for Democracy Leads to Union Victory

by Paul Garver

Trade unions played a crucial coordination and organizing role in the mass revolt in Tunisia. Communities in revolt turned to the General Union of Tunisian Workers (UGTT) for coordination and organization as the social movement gathered force. The social upheaval in turn strengthened the unions in their power struggles with transnational companies like Coca-Cola.

At Coca-Cola’s Tunisian bottler SFBT, the union Fédération générale de l’alimentation et du tourisme (FGAT-UGTT) seized the opportunity to negotiate an end to agency work and roll back the abusive use of precarious employment contracts. After a series of mobilizations and strikes in the 10 bottling plants, the Coke bottler had to concede the creation of 1000 new permanent positions for workers who had been employed “temporarily” for over four years, and the direct employment of another 1000 agency workers in positions covered by the union contract. These employees would also be made permanent after they had been employed for four years.

Within Coke’s global empire, from India and Pakistan through China and Colombia (to name just a few of the most egregious cases), the abusive practice of sub-contracting workers (sometimes called agency or dispatch labor) is rampant. Often a small core of unionized permanent workers is surrounded by a vast penumbra of workers without secure employment status or the right to benefits under the collective bargaining agreement. The Global Coke Workers Alliance has made combating this systematic abuse by Coke bottlers as its highest priority, but progress has been painfully slow and difficult in most countries.

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Pakistan Coke Workers Win Union Recognition and Permanent Jobs

Coke Union Presidents Ghulam Rasool, Khalid Pervez, Khaista Rehman

by Paul Garver

After a long and bittler struggle 187 workers at the Coke bottling plant in Multan, Pakistan, have won recognition of their People’s Employees’ Union.   Their precarious jobs have been converted into permanent ones, directly employed by Coca-Cola Beverages Pakistan Ltd (a joint venture of the Coca-Cola Company and its Turkish-based bottling partner Coca-Cola Icecek).

The agreement was reached after 19 hours of negotiations at the Geneva office of the IUF (International Union of Foodworkers), and was formally signed by the IUF, the Coca-Cola Company and Coca-Cola Icecek following endorsement by the three IUF-affiliated Coca-Cola Workers Unions in Pakistan.

The Global Alliance of Coca-Cola Workers coordinated by the IUF has made the struggle for union rights and for secure permanent employment its global priorities.

 

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Partial Strike Victory for South African Coke Workers

by Paul Garver

After a seven week strike, Food and Allied Workers Union workers at SABMiller’s ABI, the largest Coke bottler in South Africa, have won a partial victory. Settlement terms include a 7.8% wage increase, improvements in education and housing allowances, and overtime pay for all hours worked on weekends. An independent mediator will oversee any disciplinary actions related to company accusations of strike violence, and casual workers will not lose employment because of participation in the strike.

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Coke Workers Strike to Preserve Jobs

Coke Workers Strike in South Africa

by Paul Garver

A strike by three thousand workers launched by the Food and Allied Workers’ Union (FAWU) on December 22 at SAB Miller’s ABI Soft Drinks Division has now entered its second month.  ABI is a major bottler and distributor of Coca-Cola products in South Africa

The union is demanding an end to the further use of labor brokers and the “Driver-Owner Schemes” which convert truck drivers into “independent” owner operators and their crews into casual workers deprived of decent working conditions and job security. FAWU stresses that these schemes, presented as “black empowerment,” are in fact a means of dividing the workforce and creating inferior conditions in delivery services.

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