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Uniting Food, Farm and Hotel Workers World-Wide

European Coca-Cola Unions Join Forces to Protest Redundancies and Demand Negotiations

Posted to the IUF website 07-Feb-2006

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More than 400 workers at Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE) from Belgium, England and France demonstrated in front of the CCE European headquarters in Issy-les-Moulineaux (Paris) on February 6 to protest the job cuts stemming from the company's restructuring strategy and to highlight the unions' insistence that all such plans be subject to negotiations.

Over the last two years, CCE restructuring plans have made redundant at least 496 workers in the Netherlands, Belgium, France and the UK. In the Netherlands, the introduction of new bottling lines resulted into 80 redundancies in 2004. By mid-November 2005, CCE announced its third consecutive restructuring plan for Belgium, adding 50 more job cuts to the hundred other redundancies over the last 2 years. In December 2005 CCE launched a plan for France entailing 142 redundancies and the closure of two whole logistic facilities in Combs-la-Ville and Salon-de-Provence. In January 2006, restructuring hit the United Kingdom with an initial 170 job losses at the CCE plant in East Kilbride. Unions are anticipating hundreds more.

CCE has implemented all of these restructuring plans without following the mechanisms requiring them to consult with the unions and the European Works Council. CCE management is also trying to bypass the unions by proposing individual packages to workers and agreements with local works councils. The Paris demonstration in Paris aimed to force CCE management to provide information on proposed restructurings and to enter into negotiations in each country over the plans and their negative consequences for employees.

More than 400 Coca-Cola workers from three European countries demonstrated in front of CCE headquarters to demand negotiations with unions

A delegation composed of representatives of all unions taking part in the action - CFDT, CGT, FO for France, FGTB and CSC for Belgium, TGWU, AMICUS and GMB for the UK plus the IUF and its European regional organization EFFAT met with CCE's Human Resources Director. Despite repeated requests by the workers to meet with a management representative with decision-making authority, no executive attended the meeting. Although CCE's strategy clearly aims at restructuring European operations as a whole, the company denies the transnational nature of its plans in order to justify bypassing serious consultation with the European Works Council. Union representatives also denounced CCE's narrow focus on shareholders alone, expressed their disappointment with the poor quality and results of current corporate strategies and called on the company to assume responsibility for its employees.

The demonstration, co-ordinated by EFFAT, was the first joint action by European unions organizing workers in the CCE system. The IUF provided international visibility and support to the event that generated more than 400 messages to CCE European management by Coca-Cola workers worldwide. New internationally coordinated actions are being prepared depending on the company's reaction.