SIPTU MEMBERS in Coca Cola HBC (Hellenic Bottling Company) in Dublin, Cork, Tipperary and Tuam have been on all-out strike since 27 August.
Despite making massive profits Coca Cola HBC is proposing to outsource the distribution of its products to three outside companies, Kielys Distribution, Liam Carroll and Brian Daly Transport.
The High Court has already imposed an injunction against the workforce in an attempt to hamper picketing of the scab companies who are continuing to distribute Coca Cola’s products.
The workers have been been given a Hobson’s choice – either transfer to these new companies or be made redundant. This is a multinational company that in spite of the recession is making massive profits. According to the Wall Street Journal, Coca Cola Hellenic increased its profits by 4% from €181.5 million to €188.1 million for the quarter ending June 2009 in comparison to the same period in 2008.
This is clearly an attempt by the company to significantly increase their profits by destroying the jobs and conditions won by workers over 50 years. Some of the strikers have been working more than 30 years for Coca Cola.
The outsourcing of the distribution operation will result in 130 job losses. The terms and conditions being offered by the three new employers are outrageous. Wage cuts are being imposed of between €15,000 and up to €40,000 a year depending on service. Strikers in Cork have been told that if they want a job with one of the new companies they must move to Thurles! Letters from the new companies have told the drivers that they will be on zero hour contracts and they must be prepared to deliver other products including tyres, and be available to drive to Britain and mainland Europe!
Coca Cola HBC joins the long list of multinational companies such as Dell in Limerick and SR Technics in Dublin airport who are using the economic recession as a means to increase their profits and drive down wages and conditions in the race to the bottom.
The Coca Cola strikers have received messages of support from Coca Cola Hellenic workers in factories in Athens, Volos, and Salonika in Greece.
The striking workers in Coca Cola are making a just stand in defence of their jobs and conditions and they should get the full backing of the trade union movement.
The key to winning this strike is to stop the supply and distribution of Coca Cola products. These products are bottled at Coca Cola Bottlers (Ulster) Ltd in Lambeg Co.Down. The Lambeg workforce are members of the trade union USDAW. SIPTU, USDAW and NIC-ICTU have an important role in trying to get these workers to support the striking workers at Coca Cola HBC. A defeat of the HBC workforce in the South would leave the workers at the Lambeg plant open to similar attacks on their wages, working conditions and job security.
SIPTU must do what ever it takes to stop the distribution of all Coca Cola products. SIPTU should mobilise other trade unionists to participate in effective picketing to stop Kielys, Liam Carroll and Brian Daly transport from scabbing on this strike. Appeals should be issued to trade unionists to refuse to handle Coca Cola products in supermarkets, shops, pubs etc. and the general public should be asked to boycott Coca Cola products.