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IUF convenes largest-ever meeting of Coca-Cola/FEMSA unions in the Americas.

Posted to the IUF website 26-Jul-2004

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Thirty union delegates from thirteen countries attended an IUF-convened conference of Coca-Cola Workers of the Americas, held in Mexico City on June 24-26.

The participating unions represented some 50,000 Coke workers in Latin America and North America. Delegates discussed ways to defend trade union rights throughout the region and addressed problems with outsourcing in distribution and sales, with health and safety, and with retaining collective bargaining gains in difficult negotiations with Coke bottlers.

The participants noted that, while Coca-Cola system management uses similar methods and speaks the same language throughout the Americas, unions still face difficult historical, cultural and linguistic
barriers. However those present resolved to surmount these barriers by interchanging delegates to each others' meetings and by using electronic methods of communication. All aimed at developing a common union strategy and struggle in the beverages sector throughout the Americas.

The Colombia unions present shared their recent collective bargaining experiences, particularly over the restructuring process at FEMSA Coca-Cola where a total of 281 jobs were threatened following FEMSA's acquisition of Panamco operations there. Solidarity action by IUF affiliates helped the union at the small franchised bottling plant at Carepa in Urab´┐Ż province to successfully defend union rights and bargaining gains of recent years (click here for details). Local support from the IUF-affiliated banana workers' union SINTRAINAGRO to the plant union was also an essential part of this important victory.

The conference also discussed strategies to help IUF affiliates facing job losses through restructuring in other countries, including current struggles in Honduras and Peru and support was shown in particular for the 21-month struggle of 30 PepsiCo workers to be reinstated to their jobs in Guatemala. Delegates signed a common protest letter to PepsiCo and agreed to raise the issue with local Pepsi bottlers (click here for details).

Other elements of a future working strategy agreed upon at the conference included working towards consolidating beverage sector unions in both Latin and North America by exchanging observers to each other's meetings, and by the exchange of bargaining information, language and "best practices."