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The Facts: The Coca-Cola Company And Colombia

By:  The Coca-Cola Company Jan 25, 2006

  • The Coca-Cola Company and our bottling partners have conducted business in Colombia for more than 70 years. More than 2,000 Colombians are employed by Coca-Cola bottlers in Colombia. Bottling plants distribute beverages to approximately 500,000 retailers, creating additional jobs in sales, marketing and shipping.
  • The Coca-Cola bottling operations in Colombia make beverages by Colombians and for Colombians; beverages are not exported out of the country to any other market, which is our business practice regardless of where we operate in the world.
  • Over the past several decades, Colombia has experienced much internal conflict, which affects trade union leaders and other people from all walks of life. Despite the volatile environment, The Coca-Cola Company and its bottlers have maintained operations and have worked to provide safe, stable economic opportunities for the people of Colombia.
  • In a country where violence against union members has deterred all but 4 percent of workers from unionizing, 31 percent of Coca-Cola bottler employees belong to unions. Coca-Cola bottlers enjoy extensive, normal relations with 12 unions in Colombia and currently have collective bargaining agreements in place covering wages, benefits and working conditions. On average, wages for Coca-Cola workers are two to three times higher than the minimum wage.
  • Through both collective bargaining agreements and their own initiative, Coca-Cola bottlers work with unions and the government to provide emergency cell phones, transportation to and from work, secure housing, and a host of other measures to protect employees. Additional security measures are routinely provided to union leaders and special measures are undertaken when a threat against unionized employees is brought to the attention of the bottler's management. We've also established a 24-hour hotline for employees to confidentially report any workplace concerns and/or complaints.
  • We share global concerns regarding the unfavorable labor environment in Colombia. Ed Potter, our director of global labor relations, serves on the Applications of Conventions Committee within the International Labor Organization (ILO), which evaluates country implementation of ratified ILO treaties. In late October, Ed was part of a high-level tripartite visit to Colombia and met with government representatives, organizations representing workers and employers, and those responsible for investigating and supervising labor rights in Colombia. The Committee has made a number of recommendations based on its essential findings that impunity with respect to violence against trade unionists continues to exist and that trade unions face several obstacles in both law and practice regarding the full exercise of freedom of association. The ILO recommendations address some of the core issues contributing to the violence in Colombia.
  • In the spring of 2005, an independent assessment of bottling plants in Colombia by the internationally respected and certified social compliance auditor Cal Safety Compliance Corporation confirmed that workers in Coca-Cola plants enjoy freedom of association, collective bargaining rights, and a work atmosphere free of anti-union intimidation.
  • We are currently facilitating the design and development of an additional credible, objective and impartial independent third party assessment in Colombia during the first quarter of 2006. The assessment will involve international labor organizations, non-governmental organizations and our most vocal critics. It will be conducted with the cooperation of our Colombian bottling partners.
  • In December 2005, a major Norwegian financial firm, KLP, announced it is now satisfied that The Coca-Cola Company meets the ethical standards required of companies in which it invests. KLP had raised concerns about our system's labor practices in Colombia but specifically cited the audit conducted by Cal Safety Compliance Corporation as a key factor in its satisfaction that our Company abides by high ethical standards.
  • A public statement made by SINALTRAINBEC, a Colombian union representing bottler employees, said that it has "not a single indication" that The Coca-Cola Company or any of its bottling partners have links to anti-union violence.
  • Two different judicial inquiries in Colombia - one in a Colombian Court and one by the Colombian Attorney General - found no evidence to support the allegations that bottler management conspired to intimidate or threaten trade unionists.
  • These allegations were the thrust of a lawsuit filed in 2001 against The Coca-Cola Company in a U.S. District Court in Miami; the Company was dismissed as a defendant. We are confident that as the case proceeds, the court will find no evidence against Coca-Cola bottlers.
  • Earlier this year, we signed a joint statement with the IUF, the international organization for unions in the food and beverage sectors. In that document, we acknowledge that " Coca-Cola workers are allowed to exercise rights to union membership and collective bargaining without pressure or interference. Such rights are exercised without fear of retaliation, repression or any other form of discrimination." We are committed to ongoing dialogue with the IUF.
  • In July 2003, the IUF posted this statement to its Web site: "Sweeping, unsubstantiated allegations and assertions of the type found in the boycott appeal do nothing to help the cause of the unions that organize and represent Coca-Cola workers around the world, the majority of which are members of the IUF. The call for a boycott of Coca-Cola was unanimously rejected at the recent IUF global meeting that included over 27 IUF-affiliated organizations from 23 countries, representing more than 100 Coca-Cola workers' trade unions around the world."
  • For as long as we've been in Colombia, Coca-Cola has supported programs that aid children, promote education, and bring relief to victims of the country's ongoing conflict. Earlier this year, we provided $10 million to start the Colombian Foundation for Education and Opportunity, an organization that addresses the needs of victims of violence and is run by a group of well-respected Colombians, including Mr. Carlos Rodriguez (president of the Colombian United Confederation of Workers).

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