night before a big demonstration, Sirel interviewed
Hidayat Greenfield, IUF Coordinator for the Asia-Pacific
Region, about the conflict and the International
- How did this conflict begin?
-The key of all this is that
Coca Cola refused
to recognize the democratic union formed at the
Multan plant in June last year and reacted with
threats against the union officers. The union president,
who is a truck driver, was forcibly transferred to a
very distant route while other union officers were
Through IUF intervention and through
international negotiations, we had the union officers
reinstated. But the reason why this has gone on so long
comes down to a key issue of illegal employment
arrangements in the factory. And the key issue there is
Coca Cola management
is claiming that we can only have 37 union members out
of 450 workers because only 37 are permanent workers and
the rest are all contract workers.
But in fact, 150 of those are not contract workers, they
are directly paid temporary employees who are employed
by Coca Cola.
By law, they should be made permanent after nine months.
But they have been employed by Coca
more than ten years.
So what we have is workers denied the right to permanent
jobs according to the law, and therefore, denied the
right to join the union, and be part of the bargaining
unit. This is the key to the dispute.
-But there is also a fraud by management…
-Yes, when we started examining the real employment
relationship, management already started altering the
government-issued social security cards of the
employees. They added in the Employer section the name
of this labor contractor. By hand, they added it. And
they started fabricating documents in an attempt to
cover up the fact that these workers were directly
employed by Coca Cola.
We then investigated further and found that this labor
contractor does not exist.
The spark of outsourcing
450 workers in the Multan Plant, only 37 are directly employed by
Basically, we wanted them to acknowledge all of the
evidence we presented because Coca Cola couldn’t
even give us the address of the contractor. And when
they finally gave us the address, after a month, they
gave us three addresses in three days. We couldn’t find
this contractor and in the end all we found was an old
abandoned building where
all of the neighbors, including the bank staff next
door, said that the sign was painted just four days
before we arrived.
And this fake company is supposedly employing all of our
union members. So, therefore, these workers can’t be
members of a union that bargains with Coca Cola.
-Coca Cola workers are mobilized…
-We have nation-wide demonstrations. Mainly related to
the FIFA World Cup. We
have this “red card penalty to Coca Cola” actions going
on across Pakistan.
This past Sunday we had a family football event in
people gave a red card to Coca Cola. We protested
at the head office of Coca Cola Pakistan in
Lahore and now this protest moved to two other
cities: to Guijranwala, Multan and
the next day to Rahim Yar Khan where Coca
Cola has another factory.
There are unions in all except one plant in Lahore
and all these other Coca Cola unions, all members
of the IUF, are wearing black arm bands and
holding demonstrations in support of the Multan
- And there is also an IUF Global Campaign?
-Yes, it is worth noting that
50 percent owned by Coca Cola Turkey, this is
Coca Cola Icecek (CCI), and
management has refused to recognize any of these
issues for the past several months.
Clearly, the reaction of management has been more
repression and more threats and even criminal
activities. All of this has forced us to launch a global
campaign because we really could not, through
negotiations, achieve anything.
There is always the communications channel that we have
with the Coca Cola Company. Meetings are planned,
but the key issue is that Coca Cola Icecek, the
Turkish management, has to start acting in good faith,
stop denying even very basic facts and get down to
sorting this out.