Resistance to Coca-Cola's union busting in Colombia or its trampling of villagers’ rights in India are well-known to many activists on the left. Less well-known is the fact that Coca-Cola employs thousands of workers in the UK; now, those workers are going into battle with their bosses.
Over 2,000 employees of Coca-Cola Enterprises at 12 sites across the UK are members of the GMB or Unite, and from June 11 they will be balloted for strike action to win national bargaining on issues such as pay, conditions and pensions. Coca-Cola bosses have refused to enter into bargaining to secure national agreements for these workers, insisting on bargaining on a plant-by-plant basis.
The strike, if it takes place, will go ahead during the World Cup. With Coca-Cola a key sponsor, the negative publicity this could create for the company is substantial.
Support for a strike is absolutely solid. A consultative ballot returned a 96% majority in favour, mirroring recent trends across a variety of sectors and workplaces.
The dispute involves a recent raft of changes that bosses introduced to the pension scheme, which made substantial cuts to the pension scheme offered to any worker who retired at 60 (only those who worked on until 65 would be entitled to the full scheme).
The ballot result is expected to be returned before the end of June.