Workers at Coca-Cola's biggest bottling and distribution center in Britain began a 48-hour strike on July 26 after rejecting a pay offer. The shutdown at the group's center in Wakefield, northern England, was expected to coincide with a 24-hour strike due to start on July 27 at a smaller plant in Milton Keynes, north of London.
With 100 workers manning the picket lines in Wakefield, union officials complained a 2.5% pay rise offer was too low, especially as management also asked workers to give up overtime rates and bonuses. Regional officer Kelvin Mawer, who takes part in negotiations with Coca Cola, said it was unfair to ask workers to sacrifice overtime rates. "Some of the lads leave here near exhaustion at the end of a 12-hour shift. When they do get overtime they want it at one and a half time. The 2.5% is a derisory offer," he said.
The Wakefield plant, which produces 200 million cans of Coke a week, employs 517 staff, including manufacturing and distribution technicians and delivery drivers.GMB members want the December 2006 rate of inflation which was 3.8%, he added.
Coca-Cola Enterprises insisted it was "business as usual," saying the strike has had not dented its manufacturing and distributing operation levels for a typical Thursday in Britain. "Our priority is to settle this disappointing dispute but we're equally committed to maintaining the highest quality service to our customers, Coca Cola's head of operations Stephen Moorhouse said "So we have taken action to ensure stocks are high throughout our network and we can confidently reassure everyone there will be cans and bottles of our drinks onthe shelves throughout the summer," he said.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2007