GMB slam human rights record of Coca-Cola Company

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GMB slams Coca-Cola company as serial offender in failing to respect human rights of workers around the world

Corporate greed is now the guiding principle behind Coca-Cola's actions, not just in the UK and much of Europe, but it is evident across the globe in their factories, says GMB London

GMB have slammed the Coca-Cola Company for its complete lack of respect for the human rights of workers at its factories and bottling plants all around the world.

The Coca-Cola Company have received repeated warnings from the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers' Associations (IUF) to deal with their ongoing rights violations. However, the company has failed to take any meaningful action to remedy the abuses seen at its own operations, and at its bottlers in Haiti, Indonesia, and the Philippines.

These warnings have included; recognising workplace unions in Haiti which were refused any serious dialogue to resolve ongoing issues around rights violations and poor working conditions, despite it being included in the Coca-Cola Workplace Rights policy; stopping Coca-Cola Amatil in Indonesia from retaining the Collective Bargaining Agreements inherited from the Suharto military dictatorship, which are being used as a disciplinary code to control and manage the workforce; and trying to stop Coca-Cola FEMSA in the Philippines from presenting a package of job destruction, labour law violations and systematic rights abuses as its new "business model" following the introduction of the sugar tax in December 2017. 

In the UK, The Coca-Cola Company announced the closure of plants in Milton Keynes and Northampton, affecting the jobs of nearly 300 people. The Coca-Cola Company which makes £1.7 billion a year in profit, made the decision to close the factory and warehouse as they believe they will save around £12 million a year. This is despite the Milton Keynes site being the number one site in Europe in terms of ‘cost-per-case’. [See notes to editors for previous GMB press release]

Richard Owen, GMB Regional Officer said:

"Coca-Cola European Partners are now much more closely controlled by the Coca-Cola corporation, and are clearly determined to press ahead with this ill-thought-out, and in my view, vindictive attack on our members' livelihoods, despite the fact that the MK plant continues to outperform every other site, not just in the UK, but across Europe. Our members are expected to deliver maximum effort to boost production and maintain profits, while the senior management team thrash around, cobbling together a plan to re-locate machinery and plant into other sites which are ill-equipped to deal with the additional workloads.

“As Union Organisers, we are resigned to having to deal with factory closures and redundancies in instances where the business is not sustainable, and it is always really painful to see that.

“In this case, however, Coca-Cola is telling us all that they may save £12 million annually, (and clearly, they may not). The company has refused to deny or confirm our own estimates that MK alone generates at least £100 million a year. The cost of closing these plants is estimated at £90 million, and is bound to rise.

“We suggested during the short consultation period they allowed, that Northampton, because of its huge size as a site, and the infrastructure built into it when it was constructed, could actually become a "super site", which is Coca-Cola's normal preference as they combine manufacturing and distribution on a single site. This idea was dismissed out of hand, on the grounds, in addition to that of cost, that ‘Milton Keynes and Northampton are in the wrong place’.

“Well, anyone with a brain and eyes in their heads can see that both of these towns are home to many distribution depots and manufacturing sites, and continue to attract similar businesses. I believe that Milton Keynes, in particular, has had a target on its back for a long time due to its very strong union presence, its relatively high pay, in comparison to other UK sites, and the local agreement which prevents the company from bringing in large numbers of agency workers on much lower rates of pay. None of these factors has prevented MK from being highly productive and very efficient.

“Our members are being victimised as a result of Coca-Cola's virulent anti-Union views. Corporate greed is now the guiding principle behind Coca-Cola's actions, not just in the UK and much of Europe, but it is evident across the globe in their factories, and those of its ‘partners’ in the bottling plants, over whom Coca-Cola has almost complete control.

“It is not enough for the company to make huge profits, - enough is NEVER enough, - every last cent has to be screwed out of every plant, and if that means denying basic human rights to workers in Indonesia, the Philippines and elsewhere, or laying off hard-working and productive staff all across Europe, as part of the re-structuring process, then Coca-Cola will not be inhibited by any concerns for basic fairness or for that matter, sensitivity to adverse publicity. They simply do not care, and nor will they, as long as people keep swigging their products, and their bottom line is producing huge profits.

“It is worth noting that America has just announced its withdrawal from the UN Human Rights Council.  Corporate America is showing its true colours, and is clearly in sync with 'the guy in the white house.'"


Contact: Richard Owen 07974 179 285 or GMB London Press Office 07970 114 762

Notes to Editors

Previous GMB Press Releases

GMB question Coca-Cola's decision to close factory in Milton Keynes (28 Mar 2018)

GMB shocked by closure announcement of Coca-Cola factory in Milton Keynes (31 Jan 2018)