Multi-billion Dollar Coke Pushes Precarious Work on Canadian Employees, Forces Labour Dispute

June 27, 2013, 3:00 PM EST

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Workers at the Coca-Cola bottling facility in Brampton, Ontario were forced into a labour dispute early this morning after collective bargaining negotiations broke down between the company and the CAW. Pickets were set up near the facility (located at 15 Westcreek Blvd) at 12:01 a.m.

CAW Local 973 Plant Chairperson Ryan Parson said the labour dispute is an unfortunate and frustrating turn of events, in what has been an unnecessarily difficult round of bargaining.

"Our members came to the bargaining table looking for modest improvements to our standard of living and work practices, and with every intention of signing a deal," Parson said. "Coke management has clearly not come to the table with those same objectives. They've consistently stalled the process and have made it clear to us that it's their way or the highway."

Parson said the company refuses to back off a slate of concessionary demands that would create more instability and insecurity for Coke workers in Brampton.

The company wants to remove all new hires from the existing pension plan; make it impossible for "temporary" employees to transfer to full-time; outsource skilled trades work; and weaken employee transfer rights in the event of layoff, among other demands.

The work standards in Brampton, the company's largest facility in Canada, typically set the benchmark for Coke workers across the country.

CAW Local 973 President Norm Chow said this dispute has nothing to do with money, since the two sides have not exchanged any monetary proposals (including over wages, benefits or pensions) over months of fruitless bargaining.

"Coke's global profits topped $9 billion in 2012. Their revenues are higher than the GDP of many nations. And they're fighting to undermine the working conditions of 700 workers. This is infuriating," Chow said.

Parson said the company is taking a noticeably combative approach with the workers, which is fuelling frustration.

"As the strike deadline neared, Coke management forced our members to leave the plant, locking them out and is now refusing to pay them for the remainder of their shifts," Parson said. "The company is also withholding the paycheques of temporary employees in the facility."

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