Hundreds of employees at Brampton’s Coca-Cola bottling facility have gone on strike after the CAW failed to come to a new agreement concerning pensions, job transfer rights, outsourcing and promotions for temporary workers.
“The company is trying to expand their ability to outsource work leaving workers with the feeling of insecurity,” CAW local 973 president Ryan Parson told YourMississaugaBiz.com, specifying skilled trades, transportation and in-house auto mechanics.
Created in 2001, the Westcreek Boulevard facility is Coca Cola Refreshments Canada’s (CCRC) largest one in the country, handling production, manufacturing, bottling, distribution, transportation, machinery maintenance and warehousing of the company’s product.
In addition to the reduction of work, Parson said that CCRC and CAW also disagreed about issues like pensions for new workers and employee transfer rights.
“They’re not interested in employees being able to retain their jobs when they move part of the work to other workplaces, which the company allowed in the past,” Parson said.
Another point of contention was CCRC eliminating the mechanism temporary workers would use to transition to full-time work.
The plant has 700 full time employees and 100 temporary workers. Approximately 250 come from Brampton and Mississauga, with other employees commuting from as far as Port Hope, Orangeville, Guelph and Kitchener-Waterloo.
“Our workplace is almost one-fifth of their unionized staff in the country,” Parson said. “And whatever happens in Brampton, is where the other workplaces and trade unions in the system try to achieve the rights, conditions and benefits in negotiations.”
And since approximately 35 per cent of products in Canada are manufactured in the Brampton plant, a long strike could also affect the availability of stock.
While Coke’s global profits were $9 billion last year, Parson said there were still some warning signs management was going to try and make significant changes at the facility. “We anticipated that Coca-Cola might try to achieve things that other company were achieving or pushing forward to ensure greater profits off our backs,” he said.
But after 15 years as a union representative and his fifth agreement, Parson isn’t surprised the situation has come to this. “I’m trying to bargain, but I was a little disappointed because there was no discussion about economics,” he said.
“And we were prepared to bargain again at 9 a.m. But there was no interest.”