Thursday, September 24, 2009

Coca Cola - The real thing when it comes to respecting workers

Below is an e-mail I received from Pól Ó Deoráin. He had received it from a worker invoved in the current Coca Cola dispute in Dublin. I have also included a video made by the strikers.

The complete disregard that Coca Cola has shown for its employees is reflected across the country in cases such as Tomas Cook, Dublin Docks etc and working people need to stand together, not only to protect jobs, but also pay and conditions.

I strongly believe that what we are seeing now is a taste of what is to come in both the public and private sector and Sinn Féin must continue to stand with workers in such struggles on both sides of the border.

A Chara

A neighbour sent this to me. He is on Strike in Coca Cola

Now entering my fourth week of strike duty at the Coca Cola HBC’s Ballycoolin plant. A day that myself and my 60 work mates thought we would never see. 18 of us with fixed term contracts joined Coca Cola HBC over a year ago with the promise of permanent employment. How wrong were we? How sad and disappointed are we, as most of us left full time employment to join Coca Cola HBC thinking it would be a job for life?

We were notified recently of the company’s proposal to outsource all jobs in distribution. This will affect over 50 people immediately in Dublin. There are also depots in Cork and Tuam to consider who have no futures. 130 people in total will be affected.

SIPTU balloted staff for strike action with an over whelming “YES” majority. However, some of the people who voted in favour of strike have now returned to work. They went from “YES” to looking at us with disgust as they pass our picket each day. Our protest seems to be only a major annoyance to them. Imagine how we feel. What we strike for now will ultimately benefit them in the future. What little thanks as they could be next.

We believe a company who has made over 200 million profit in the first half of this year are most certainly in a position to keep all staff employed. They openly admit that outsourcing is the cheapest way forward, totally at our expense.

We protest about our 45% to 70% pay cuts and loss of pension rights for staff, only if the third party companies offer positions to us. It is supposed to be a transfer of undertaking, where staff are transferred with the same salaries and same pension rights. Pay cuts of that level are totally unacceptable in modern Ireland with such a high cost of living. A long bleak future of unemployment for the unsuccessful. The average 10% pay cut the majority of Irish people had to take would be most welcome.

Gokhan Bilgic managing director of Coca Cola HBC told the staff we had the highest output per man and that we set a high standard for all distribution points to follow. He was very happy, however this was not enough.

This is the first all out strike Coca Cola has seen in its 50 year history in Ireland. Our pickets are 24 hours a day 7 days a week. We fight for the right to be treated fairly and for our hard work to be recognised and appreciated.

Michael Kerrigan, Clondalkin, Dublin 22.
September 18, 2009 5:12 PM


  1. We've been seeing this economic warfare against wage earners being played out in Ireland for a very long time. When Irish ferries was able to blantantly discriminate against workers based on their nationality and govt wrung its hands (none so than the man of the people - De Bertie) of the whole affair, we truely witnessed a seminal moment in modern worker's welfare and history.

    The sentence that struck me most was that workers, whose jobs are not under threat, look with "disgust" upon those on strike. That sentence speaks volumes about current attitudes throughout society: "I'm alright jack, screw you."

    I'm sure SF is broadly supportive of the strikers and worker's issues in general. However, what we are witnessing is a wholesale capitulation of national govts across the world to so-called globalisation and the all powerful multinationals who glefully game national tax systems to boot.

    The SP will be the main beneficiaries in the working areas as their nationalisation programs directly address affected workers concerns. I just don't know how SF, by itself and without a broad alliance within the EU political scene, can address such issues.

    If we're honest the neo-liberal capitalist doctrine of capital accumulation is pretty much accepted by most governments and most of the average citizenry. They don't worry about long terms consequences (hence Harney's declaration that voters have short memories). Any collateral damage to living standards and the environment fostered by short-term profit motives is deeply entrenched in our collective national pysche. We're only too happy to game the US tax base in order to provide jobs in Ireland. (How many stikers would vote for a rise in Multinational Corp tax increases?)

    Maybe, on this one score, the SP and their like are correct to play the wait and see game. Despite the economic debacle and the payoff to banksters and property development gougers, the electorate only wants to hear news about a recovery - and a new credit card wouldn't go amiss either.

    It's my belief that unions should have a narrow and achievable remit. They exist to protect workers right, wages and benefits. Some Irish unions are doing great work in getting their workers a say in production practices and incentives through share ownership. Imo, this is the way to go. When the Unions joined the National Partnership agreement, they signed away their reason for existence. Specific Unions and Union Reps who understand their respective industries and what needs to be accomplished for their workers makes sense. Unions trying to run businesses or taking part in some grandoise national schemes are ineffective and actually create worse conditions for all wage earners in Ireland.

    On a side note, I've met some low level Union Reps at various SF gathering but I got the impression some were there as interested specatators more than active party members.

    Does SF have a nuanced policy with regard to Unions?

  2. Gerry Adams was down at the Coca Cola protest in cork and writes about it in his blog