Philippines: Union denounces police meeting at Coca-Cola plant & union leader later threatened; Company says allegations without merit

Union members at a Coca-Cola bottling operation in Bacolod City in the Philippines are being exposed to the threat of paramilitary violence, according to the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers' Associations (IUF). In October 2019, at a meeting held for all employees, the IUF says police denounced the recognised union at the plant - a member of the IUF-affiliated FCCU-SENTRO - and urged members to resign their membership. The IUF further alleges that an elected member of the Bacolod City Coca-Cola union has received threats by military officers at his home.

In January 2020, Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited Coca-Cola to respond to the allegations of attacks on unions at its bottling operation in Bacolod City. Coca-Cola responded and said the IUF's allegations are unfounded. The full response is included below. 

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre received a rejoinder from the IUF, which said the response by Coca-Cola demonstrates a total failure to address the substance of the allegations and the absence of any independent effort to investigate the facts, including an examination of evidence available to the company. The full rejoinder is included below. 

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NGO rejoinder
3 February 2020

IUF's rejoinder to Coca-Cola's response

Author: The International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers' Associations (IUF)

The response... demonstrates a total failure to address the substance of the allegations and the absence of any independent effort to investigate the facts...

Nowhere does the IUF allege that company management spoke to workers at the... meetings... [We said] plant security personnel... introduced an individual who described himself as a former armed insurgent... reporting directly to the president... [who] denounced the recognized union at the plant as a subversive organization.... [T]his assertion cannot be misunderstood: subversion equals... armed insurgence... We have no indication that at any point management intervened to suggest that the presentation was veering off message, or that the veiled threats and clear interference in the union’s structures and activities were inappropriate...

With respect to... [the threatening visit to the union vice-president’s home] TCCC’s claim that... their Philippines subsidiary, “is unaware of such activity by the authorities and can therefore provide no comment” is simply not credible... [It] was described in detail in a formal letter... sent to the human resources director at the plant and copied to the plant operations director and the CEO of Coca-Cola Bottling Enterprises in the Philippines...

...TCCC recommends that the IUF and its affiliates “reach out” to the Philippines National Police. Our affiliate has done so...

[The full rejoinder is attached]

Download the full document here

Company response
16 January 2020

Coca-Cola's response

Author: Coca-Cola

The IUF’s allegations... are unfounded...

[T]he Republic of the Philippines National Police Commission... requested of the Bacolod operation time to hold information sessions with all... [ Coca-Cola Bottling Philippines Inc. (CCBPI)] employees... Attendance at the meetings was voluntary and the sessions were held on Oct. 2 and 5, 2019...

The claim by the... IUF and the FCCU, a union that represents CCBPI employees, that the company engaged in “red-tagging” or denouncing any of its employees’ unions at such meetings is false.  No one from the Company’ management spoke at these meetings or with those officers running the seminars.

The IUF further alleged that members of its affiliates have received visits from military or police personnel at their homes. CCBPI is unaware of such activity by the authorities and can therefore provide no comment... 

[The full response is attached]              

Download the full document here

Article
18 December 2019

Philippines: Union accuses Coca-Cola plant management of attacks against workers in collusion with paramilitary

Author: The International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers' Associations (IUF)

"Coca-Cola's attack on unions in the Philippines invites violence against workers", 18 December 2019

... On October 5... management of the Coca-Cola plant in Bacolod City held a meeting for all employees... [during] which plant security personnel, accompanied by two... police officers, introduced... Ka Tom Mateo... [a self-described] former armed insurgent now reporting directly to the president with the support of the intelligence service. He denounced the recognized union... a member of the IUF-affiliated FCCU-SENTRO... and urged members to resign their membership...

On October 17, two... [self-described] military officers visited the home of an elected [union] officer... [They] referred to the town hall meeting and Ka Tom Mateo, denounced the union... [and] threatened that the government had ways of silencing troublemakers.

... Responsibility for intimidation and threats by management, in collusion with the military and police, lies squarely with The Coca-Cola Company...

Read the full post here