Coca Cola Refuses To Negotiate Says Its Workers’ Unions

by Ronalyn V. Olea

MANILA – Coca-Cola Philippines has marked its 100th year anniversary with the launching of its happiness truck, making the dreams of lucky Filipinos come true. But ironically, the company is being accused by its workers of spreading unhappiness among them with its attacks on labor rights.

In a press conference, March 17, presidents of workers’ unions in Coca-Cola Philippines revealed that the company has practically refused to negotiate with them through the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). Through CBA negotiations, workers, through their union representatives, negotiate with their employers regarding working conditions, wage increases, benefits and other matters.

Instead of studying the proposals of 45 unions for an across-the-board wage hike, the management of the multinational giant is asserting an individual appraisal scheme for increasing wages, which centers on what it calls “3 Ps”: performance, productivity and presence. Workers will be subjected to a performance evaluation every two months, and those who will fail can be laid off from work.

“Coke Philippines is not spreading happiness among us workers with its scheme to press down wages, reduce and contractualize its workforce, and bust our unions,” said Faustino Aguillon, Jr, president of the United Coca-Cola Workers’ Union (UCCWU) based in Imus, Cavite.

Under the 3Ps, instead of the existing wage increase and Operation Performance Incentives paid in addition to wage increases negotiated through CBA, workers will be paid wage increases only in accordance with the results of Individual Performance Evaluations that has four rankings: EP (Excellent Performance); SP (Satisfactory Performance); DP (Developmental Performance); and NP (No Performance). According to the company scheme, workers who rank ‘NP’ in the first year of the collective bargaining agreement period will receive no wage increase or a minimal “lump sum” fixed by the management. But the scheme also proposes that wages will decline in the second and third year of the agreement depending on inflation.

“The 3P scheme is a comprehensive attack on our rights. With one stone, Coca-Cola Philippines plans to hit three birds: workers’ wage security, job security, and union security,” said Alfredo Marañon, president of the San Fernando Coca-Cola Rank and File Union (Sacoru) based in San Fernando, Pampanga.

Yolito Fadriquelan, president of the Ilaw at Buklod ng Manggagawa, a federation in which the UCCWU is an affiliate, said that presidents of two unions, one in Meycauayan, Bulacan and another in the Ilocos plant, have already been retrenched through the 3P scheme.

Aguillon said negotiations between the management and their union in Imus, Cavite plant are not getting anywhere. There are 160 regular workers and 150 contractuals employed in the said plant. Aguillon said workers have been rejecting Coke’s bribe of a P60,000 ($1,463) lump-sum payment in exchange for agreeing to the offer of 3P. They are getting a wage of P450 ($11) a day, just a little above the P404 ($9.85) minimum wage in the
National Capital Region.

Aguillon said the management threatened workers that if they do not accept the 3P scheme, the plant would close done. “The UCCWU is united in opposing Coke’s individual appraisal scheme. Coke workers know that what is at stake is not only an increase in their wages in the coming years but also the integrity of their union,” he added.

The same is true with the workers at the San Fernando, Pampanga plant. Marañon said they began negotiations in January last year and the management is adamant in imposing the 3P. Fadrequilan said the appraisal scheme usually applies to supervisors and not to rank-and-file workers. He said the management’s 3P scheme will lead to union busting, contractualization and outsourcing.

“While Coke is visibly spending a lot in its media campaign to celebrate its 100 years in the Philippines, it is penny-pinching on the people who are responsible for its super profits from the country, its workers,” Roger Soluta, secretary general of Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU). “Coke is not being grateful to Filipinos with the way it treats its workers. It is also setting a bad precedent for other companies to emulate, teaching them on how to further scrimp on the wages of Filipino workers,” Soluta said.

In a separate statement, Anakpawis Rep. Rafael Mariano said the 3P scheme is “anti-worker and an affront to the workers’ right to collective bargaining.”

“It is rightful and just for Coke workers to seek for additional wages. Coca Cola Bottlers Philippines Inc. is among the Top 100 Philippine corporations and remains as the biggest softdrinks company in the country. Last year, it invested $1 billion for a five-year expansion project of its Misamis Oriental bottling plant,” Mariano said.

Globally, Coca-Cola was ranked by Fortune magazine as the Top Four Most Admired Companies on the overall 2012 list and topped the beverage industry ranking since 2010. It is the world’s largest beverage company.Coca-Cola has been sold in the Philippines since the beginning of the 20th century and has been locally produced since 1927. In 2007, The Coca-Cola Company acquired full ownership of the Coca Cola Bottlers Philippines Inc. from the Danding Cojuangco-owned San Miguel Corporation for $590 million. (Bulatlat.com)

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