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Union Announces Victory at Coca-Cola Pakistan

Posted to the IUF website 20-Jul-2005

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The Coca-Cola Company directly operates bottling plants in Pakistan. Efforts to unionize the Coke plants at Lahore, Faisalabad and Gujranwala have so far been unsuccessful because of strong resistance from management.

However, the Coca-Cola Workers� Union in Rahimyar Khan, Punjab Province was successfully established through a combination of determined organizing efforts and the support of the IUF and its Pakistan Outreach office. In July 2000 local management appealed against the original certification of the union.

In October 2001 local management dismissed union president Khalid Pervaiz, union treasurer Mohammad Rafiq and union member Ibaad Hussain for allegedly instigating or trying to carry out an illegal strike. The so-called �strike� was in fact a brief delay in starting one of the filling lines in the morning due to understaffing and excessive reliance on causal workers, to which the union had responded with an overtime ban.

If a worker is fired in Pakistan local managements often rely on the slowness of the court system to wear down workers and starve them into submission. In this case the unionists resolutely fought the unfair dismissals. The union was encouraged when in June 2003 management�s appeal against the union certification was denied by the Punjab Labour Court, allowing the signing of a two-year collective bargaining agreement three months later.

In August 2003 the Labour Court ordered the reinstatement of Pervaiz with retroactive wages and benefits, and in July 2004 the Punjab High Court rejected management's appeal. The Punjab Labour Court made a final ruling on 25 September 2004, ordering that Khalid Pervaiz be reinstated the following day.

However management informed Khalid Pervaiz that, although he would be officially be reinstated and paid wages, he would not be allowed to enter the plant. At this point the union asked for the assistance of the IUF, which intervened with Coca-Cola Atlanta to demand that Khalid Pervaiz be granted access to the plant to provide union members on the job with access to their elected union president.

The IUF continued to raise this demand in its discussions on trade union rights with the Coca-Cola Company until January 2005 when Brother Khalid was permitted access to the plant and paid full back wages, amounting to about three years in arrears.

The cases of the other two union members dismissed for the incident also wound their way through the labour court system. In November 2004 the High Court ruled that they too should be reinstated. Local management then wrote secondary dismissal notices on a different matter, effectively nullifying the reinstatement orders and meaning that the entire process of appeals would have to start over. The IUF again intervened with Coca-Cola Atlanta protesting this vindictive delaying action.

Union president Khalid Pervaiz informed the IUF that Brothers Ibaad and Rafiq were reinstated on 16 July 2005, with management promising to pay back benefits and carry out no further legal challenges. Pervaiz attributes this final victory for the union to the IUF's sustained pressure on the Coca-Cola Company, which discouraged further legal delay by local management.