Coca Cola Bottlers Philippines, Inc. workers under the Unyon ng mga Manggagawang Driver, Forklift Operator, at Picker sa Coca Cola Sta Rosa-Independent (UMDFP-CCBPI-IND) launched their strike at the Coca Cola Sta. Rosa plant on May 21, around 4 o’clock in the morning. Workers said their decisive move to launch their strike was their highest and last political resort to call for their rights to wages, benefits, tenure, and union. As they set-up camps and picket lines outside the Coca Cola plant, workers called on consumers to support their strike, as they face severe working conditions in and out of the factory.
At dawn break, around 300 workers and supporters started their strike at exactly 4 o’clock in the morning yesterday, in front of the Coca Cola plant in Sta. Rosa, Laguna.
To commence the strike, 4 gates of the Coca Cola plant were locked up and blockaded with picket lines to paralyze the factory’s operations. More than 1000 production workers were continuously encouraged to join and support the strike. At around 4 o’clock in the afternoon yesterday, the strikers declared total paralysis of Coca Cola-Sta. Rosa’s operations.
Coca Cola-Sta. Rosa management filed damages at the Regional Trial Court-Binan against the union today. The latter immediately released a Temporary Restraining Order at 12 noon, giving the union 72 hours thereafter to lift and remove their picket lines. Otherwise, the management will be assisted by the Philippine National Police in forcefully removing the blockades.
A provision of the TRO orders the union to pay at least P150,000 in damages.
“Can you see how biased the government can be? As far as we can remember, we were the ones being robbed of our salaries, our duly guaranteed overtime pay, our right to form a union. It is very ironic to demand from us such amount of money. They know so well that based on how they treated us for 10 years or more, we do not have the capacity to pay for such thing. The order is total stupidity.”
For the striking workers and their supporters, this meant a forthcoming violent dispersal, which has been the conventional reaction of the state’s apparatus in suppressing workers.
“We knew from the very start that it would come to this point—with the management endlessly benefiting from the government’s bias. We are prepared to defend our ranks. From the day we decided to go on strike, we have become resolved that there is nothing to lose—the company has been inflicting on us the biggest pains and suffering for more than 10 years, making us impervious to physical pain.” Said Fernando Avellino, UMDFP-CCBPI-IND President.
“We warned them.” – UMDFP-CCBPI-IND.
The union filed their notice of strike on March 22, 2013 based on the company’s unfair labor practices.
The filing was followed by their stroke voting, wherein 262 out of 267 union members agreed to go on strike.
“The workers who toil every day for Coca Cola to take home billions of profits have been experiencing the worst working conditions under the 99%-Coca-Cola-owned Red System agency. As drivers, forklift operators, and pickers who ensure the safety and orderly release and delivery of finished products, the suffering we have endured has reached its limit.” Added Avellino.
Drivers, who have been in service for 10 to 18 years, are paid on a per-delivery basis, with an average of P4000 for every pay date. Taxes, social service contributions, and the like are automatically deducted from their measly salary. Deliveries, they say, are long and exhausting, consuming 18 hours to and fro the factory. Delivery shortages are likewise deducted.
Forklift operators and pickers, also in service for more than 10 years, who are in-charge of loading and unloading products for delivery work on a 12-hour shift from 6am to 6pm, receive only 3 hours worth of overtime pay. Lunch breaks are limited, where workers are often pressured to finish their lunch within 30 minutes. They are required to explain for any minute in excess.
The absence of health and safety standards such as the company’s obligation in providing restrooms is also one of the workers’ main issues. Company clinics are unable to provide for their medical needs, and ill workers are forced to work and sent a ‘notice to explain’ once unable to perform and reach their quota.
On July 18, 2012, the union filed a Petition for Certification Election for workers under the Red System agency.
On January 14, 2013, Department of Labor and Employment Bureau of Labor Relations IV-A Med Arbiter Tiongzon declared all workers under the Red System as regular employees of Coca Cola Bottlers Philippines, Inc. Concurrently, Tiongzon granted the workers’ petition for a Certification Election.
On February 5, 2013, the union received copies of the exchange of letters and communication between Romeo Montefalco, DoLE Intramuros OIC, and Alex Avila, DoLE IVA Director which resulted to the illegal transmittal of UMDFP-CCBPI-IND’s Petition for Certification Election to the DoLE Office of the Secretary, where Baldoz, a notorious anti-worker official resides in power. As a result, the PCE was dismissed, and the workers were then again considered as contractual employees under the Red System Agency.
Subsequently, the management reduced the number of company trucks used by union members from 121 to 62. Fabricated charges were increasingly filed against union members and officers.
Despite the granted PCE being a non-appealable case, Federation of Free Workers, which directs the union under the Red System agency where Sta. Rosa plant workers have never become members, filed a motion for intervention to prevent the forming of the new union. Also, signing bonus offers worth P30,000 to encourage workers to join their union instead.
“While Coca Cola has continuously portrayed an environment-friendly and consumer-friendly image via television ads worth millions of pesos, we [the workers] have been deprived of our very basic rights to just and living wages, health and safety standards, security of tenure, and organization. We have made the best use of all legal remedies and options, but apparently, the Department of Labor and Employment, the management, the Red System Agency, and the yellow Federation of Free Workers are conniving and are by all means denying us of our rights—substituting legal processes with unlawful measures.”
“To everyone who patronizes Coca Cola products, please remember the workers who toil day and night, put out their sweat and blood to deliver these products. As you drink each glass of Coke and quench your thirst, please remember those who thirst for their rights, those who thirst for justice—the workers who thirst for life.”
“We are not surprised at how the DoLE contrives with Coca Cola in engineering a systematic suppression of workers’ rights. This further heightens our resentment at such a rotten capitalist system where workers are always on the losing end. We are all fed up with Coca Cola’s greed and cruelty, and we know our strike is the only way to save our dignity. We will defend our ranks no matter what.” Ended Avellino.###