In light of recent statements released by Coca Cola Refreshments we are writing to clarify details of the ongoing labour dispute between the employer and CAW local 973.
As you know, CAW members at the Coke bottling facility in Brampton have been in a legal strike position since midnight on June 27. That coincided with the expiration of our current collective agreement. Right from the start, our union was determined to negotiate a fair agreement with the employer.
In its recent statement, entitled Setting the Record Straight the company blames the union for refusing to negotiate past the midnight strike deadline – claiming that we walked away from the bargaining table. This is totally misleading.
Our union sets bargaining deadlines for a reason. And that’s to ensure contracts are negotiated in a timely and efficient manner. If we don’t set deadlines, management can drag out negotiations for months – even years.
Despite our best intentions, Coke negotiators expressed no interest in reaching a deal. In fact, the company spent a total of 39 of 160 hours with us at the bargaining table, over the course of 12 days.
Furthermore, the company escorted some workers out of the facility prior to the midnight deadline. Their claims that the strike was initiated solely by the Union are totally false.
Because continuing negotiations past midnight on June 27 was impossible due to our responsibility to our members, we offered to return to the table at 9am the following day to resume discussions. The company refused our offer to continue talks. We continue to urge the employer to come back to the bargaining table, but they refuse.
The company is also claiming that they did not have the opportunity to provide the Union with a comprehensive offer that included wages before the strike began. This claim is utterly false as both sides were in negotiations for 12 days leading up to the expiry of the agreement and well aware of the approaching deadline. We’ve been on the street for more than a week, and still haven’t received an offer.
Instead of moving talks forward, Coca Cola chose to present a series of concessions that attacked workers’ benefits, job security and work rules as well as their union.
Some of the most significant concessions the employer attempted to push on workers are:
- The elimination of three observed holidays;
- Significant cuts to both short and long-term disability benefits, turning back the clock on over ten years of improvements through negotiations;
- A radical shift to health benefits by introducing a cost-sharing plan requiring workers to pay a portion of the cost of benefits;
- The elimination of the defined benefit pension plan for all new hires, to be replaced with a defined contribution plan;
- The elimination of an entire department to be outsourced to a third party;
- Changes to policies regarding contracting in or out work that has traditionally been performed by skilled tradespersons;
- Further restrictions to the system in place aimed to help temporary employees transition to permanent positions;
- Elimination of union recognition to harassment and discrimination, violence in the workplace, human rights representation, social justice and training;
- Dismantle seniority list, creating 4 separate lists that would deny many workers access to layoff, recall and job posting provisions
It’s astonishing that a company that netted $9 billion in profits last year would reference the “tough economic times” we all face. Tough economic times for workers, absolutely. Tough economic times for Coke? No chance.
The Union strongly urges the employer to return to the bargaining table and to present a comprehensive offer that is fair for all parties. It’s the right thing to do.
Coca Cola workers are eager to get back on the job providing quality service to our valued customers, but cannot do so until a fair agreement has been reached.
Coca Cola says that they do not want a strike, and yet they refuse to negotiate or provide a comprehensive offer.
CAW local 973 workers appreciate continued support and solidarity messages from workers across the country, including from Coca Cola workers at other facilities. For more information about the strike, please don’t hesitate to contact us, our information is listed below.
Norm Chow, President of CAW local 973
Ryan Parson, Plant Chairperson
CAW Local 973 Home.