After years of suffering anti-trade union measures at the hands of Coca Cola management the workers in Pakistan have had enough and are organising a fightback, as this report we have received from the Pakistan Trade Union Defence Campaign outlines.
Coca Cola is one of the largest beverages monopolies in the world doing business in practically all countries in the world, with their factories running 24 hours a day and their annual profits more than the total national income of backwards countries like Pakistan. In Pakistan Coca Cola factories in seven big cities, Rahim Yar Khan, Multan, Faisalabad, Lahore, Gujranwala and Islamabad, are run round the clock by thousands of workers who generate billions of dollars annually for this global monopoly. For decades Coca Cola has sucked billions of dollars out of the labour of Pakistani workers.
Because of the plunder by multinational monopolies the masses in backwards countries like Pakistan have to suffer the worst privations, poverty, unemployment and terrorism. These problems have lead to the destruction of political, social, economic and cultural structures in these countries. While these multinational monopolies destroy the economic, social and cultural fabric of society and with these also the living standards of the masses in poor countries, Coca Cola spends billions in the name of promoting culture in Pakistan. However, the real aim of these so called cultural programmes is an advertisement campaign to boost its sales. All this also serves to divert attention from the miserable conditions faced by Coca Cola workers and maximize the company’s profits.
Like all the monopolies operating in Pakistan, Coca Cola apply the most vicious oppression, exploitation and revengeful activities against the workers. But now the workers have had enough and they are waging a courageous struggle against all this. In spite of the fact that the so-called “free media” and “free judiciary” do not care about these workers and their struggle are never reported in any TV channel or newspaper, with their unity they have managed to fight a relentless battle.
Before 2000 Coca Cola in Pakistan was run in partnership with local capitalists. During that period the multinational company promoted the myth that the exploitation was due to the local capitalists, while the global management was portrayed as very benign and civilized and the local capitalists as thugs who exploited the workers without the consent of the global management. But since 2000, when all the factories in Pakistan were taken over by the global management new attacks have been launched against the workers and in order to deprive the workers of their benefits and to divide them they were put into different categories. In 2007 a Turkish company C.C.I took over management but oppression and exploitation reached even higher levels.
Divide and Rule:
- “Management Workers”:
Workers on M1 to M5 scales were defined as so called “Management workers” and were denied a union and other rights, despite the fact that they are workers like all the others.
- “NM Workers”:
NM workers are on permanent contracts and in Rahim Yar Khan there are 70 of these. In last 11 years there has be no increase in this number.
- Contract Workers:
- Permanent employment:
There are 300 workers in this category that have been hired through contracts instead of being permanent workers. They are deprived of Pensions, a Union and other rights and their salary is less than the official minimum wage of Rs. 7000 ($ 81) per month.
- Daily Wages Workers:
A large number of workers are hired on a daily basis. They don’t have any kind of job security. They come to factory gate every morning and if they are needed they are allowed to enter otherwise they have to go back to their homes empty handed.
- Permanent employment:
Workers’ Struggle and Revenge of the Management
For many years the workers from M1 to M5 scales have been pressing the demand for their recognition as workers instead of “Management workers” and for the right of trade union recognition and other rights. In Rahim Yar Khan the workers of this category won recognition through the courts and the Labour Department. Thus the “Workers’ Ittehad Union” was registered on 25 February 2011. On 5 May 2011 a referendum was held in Rahim Yar Khan in which the Worker Ittehad Union won by a large majority. The Coca Cola workers gave complete trust to the Workers’ Ittehad Union because it rejected the so-called division policy of the management and united all the workers on a common platform. After the victory in the referendum the management refused to recognize them as a CBA and started targeting the office bearers and workers. An active member of the union, Amjad Ali Bhutto, was fired forcibly and illegally in an open violation of I.L.O regultaions and Pakistani laws.
The Pakistan Trade Union Defence Campaign expresses complete solidarity with the Rahim Yar Khan Coca Cola workers and appeal to workers’ organizations around the world to support and show solidarity.
- Workers Ittehad Union (regd.) to be recognized as the CBA.
- Immediate reinstatement of Amjad Ali Bhutto.
- An end to revengeful acts against workers..
- An end to the intimidation of Rahim Yar Khan Coca Cola workers.
- Regularization of all contract workers.