Colombia: Coke bottler fires outsourced workers

Using a subterfuge to remove its direct employees from the plant, on July 27 the Coca-Cola bottling company in Medellín in Colombia’s northwestern Antioquia department laid off 132 workers contracted through the EFICACIA outsourcing company, according to the National Union of Food Industry Workers (Sinaltrainal), which represents bottling workers, including 18 of the laid-off employees. Management had notified the regular employees the day before that they would be going to another location for training on safety. Once the direct workers were out of the way, EFICACIA’s director told the contracted workers that the plant was switching to another contractor, SEDIAL, and that they were all laid off. Sinaltrainal said the Coca-Cola bottlers had used a similar trick to fire a group of contract workers in 2001. (Sinaltrainal, July 28; Adital, Brazil, Aug. 9)

In the past US activists have accused Coca-Cola of collaborating with death squads to kill, threaten and intimidate unionists at Coca-Cola bottling plants in Colombia starting in the 1990s. The Campaign to Stop Killer Coke has pushed to ban the sale of Coca-Cola on campuses, including the 24 schools in the City University of New York (CUNY), with a total student body of 270,000. The campaign succeeded in stopping sales of the company’s products at Brooklyn College, at the CUNY Law School in Queens and at some other campuses. In July, the university system announced that it was signing a contract with Pepsi and cutting Coca-Cola out. CUNY spokesperson Michael Arena denied that the activist campaign affected the decision. Pepsi “offered more money,” he said. (New York Times, Aug. 14)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, August 18.

Coca-Cola has faced litigation over alleged collaboration with paramilitaries in Colombia, as well as with death squads in Guatemala.