Saturday, November 29, 2014

Schweppes workers protest imminent unemployment due to Coca-Cola merger

Mada Masr
Schweppes workers protest imminent unemployment due to Coca-Cola merger

Sunday November 16, 2014

Jano Charbel

For the past 17 days, some 850 workers have been protesting against their imminent dismissals as the Coca-Cola Egypt Company negotiates the purchase of the Schweppes Egypt Company. Dismissals of part-time workers and the deployment of a private security firm at the Schweppes factory have led workers to protest across the country, at their company’s eight branches.

An ongoing sit-in protest has been in effect since October 30 at the Schweppes factory in Cairo’s industrial satellite town of Sadat City, while protests are also being held at the company’s seven distribution branches in Giza, Cairo, Alexandria, Mansoura, Tanta, Ismailia and Assiut.

Moreover, this week the Schweppes Company’s drivers have been threatening to halt all distributions, in light of the non-renewal of their corporate drivers’ licenses.

Abdel Latif Emara, president of the local union committee at the Schweppes factory told Mada Masr, “Our first demand is to retain our jobs, in accordance with the country’s labor law.”

According to Ashraf Aboul Ela, secretary general of the union committee at the Schweppes factory, “It appears that both of these beverage companies are agreeing to sack us 850 workers, regardless of the law.”

Unionists have pointed out that both the Schweppes and Coca-Cola companies would be violating Egypt’s Unified Labor Law (12/2003) by sacking workers in the course of their merger.

According to Article 9 of this law “Mergers of establishments… shall not terminate the employment contracts of the establishment’s workers.”

Aboul Ela added that “our employers don’t care about the rights of us workers. These heavy-weight businessmen think they are above the law. They believe that us workers must willingly abide by the employers' whims.”

Aboul Ela went on to state that “the Ministry of Manpower is only concerned with us calling-off our sit-ins and protests. The officials there insist that there must be no protests during the course of their negotiations with these two companies. However, our protests and sit-ins are the only means by which we can push for our legally-stipulated rights.”

Workers are troubled by their imminent unemployment and the subsequent poverty for their family members.

Emara explained that the vast majority of workers at the Schweppes Company are over the age of 40 or 45. "It would be very difficult at this age, under these poor economic conditions, to seek new job opportunities. The livelihoods of our families and their well-being depend on these jobs we have."

The list of the Schweppes workers demands include: retaining all employees and maintaining all contracts, in light of the labor law; the payment of overdue profit-sharing payments (amounting to 10 percent of profits), which have not been paid over the course of 18 years; provision of all overtime work payments, unpaid over the course of 18 years; renewal of truck drivers’ licenses, and the maintenance of these distribution vehicles; provision of healthcare plans, which have been halted since September 30; and in case of subsequent dismissals, payment of six months wages per every year of service spent at the company.

Media spokespersons at both the Schweppes Egypt and Coca-Cola Egypt companies could not be reached for questions at the time of publication.

*Photo courtesy of Klmty Net

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