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‘Warning’ strikes start, Coca-Cola Germany confirms 450 possible job losses

By Ben Bouckley+

22-Jan-2013
Last updated on 22-Jan-2013 at 15:37 GMT

The Beverages and Catering Industry Trade Union (NGG) tells BeverageDaily.com that it will 'fight' redundancy plans that could affected up to 450 German staff at Coca-Cola Deutschland

The Beverages and Catering Industry Trade Union (NGG) tells BeverageDaily.com that it will 'fight' redundancy plans that could affected up to 450 German staff at Coca-Cola Deutschland

Coca-Cola Deutschland has confirmed to BeverageDaily.com that up to 450 jobs could be lost in Germany this year, as it faces a ‘warning’ wave of union strikes this week over a proposed pay deal.

Workers at two Bavarian Coke plants walked out today in the warning strikes over pay – which usually last several hours – with staff in a 50 further factories expected to do the same this week.

The Beverages and Catering Industry Trade Union (NGG) is co-ordinating strikes, and spokesman Jonas Bohl told us today that the union was also concerned about plans to introduce flexible working hours and potential job losses.

“The management announced some weeks ago plans about dismissing 450 employees. At the same time they want to expand the business. This, of course, doesn’t fit together very well,” Bohl said.

“Our members are deeply worried and are thus eager to ‘fight’ for the results they expect.”

'Bundling financial services'

Presented with Bohl’s comments, Coca-Cola Deutschland spokeswoman Stefanie Effner told BeverageDaily.com that a plan was afoot to “bundle financial services in our Berlin headquarters and simplify processes for our Berlin customers in organizing events”.

“This plan affected about 450 jobs out of circa. 10,300 employees altogether. We will continue producing our products at our 20 production sites and distribute them regionally,” she said.

Despite being a strong brand, Coca-Cola traded in a tough climate and the planned changes were necessary for future competitiveness, Effner added.

“We want to quickly create clarity for our employees at our locations affected. Hence, the dialogue with the work councils has already started. It is our aim to shape this challenging process responsibly,” she said.

Effner said that Coke in Germany was currently in pay negotiations with the NGG trade union, which has announced the warning strikes as the next round of talks approaches on January 30.

“During the second negotiation round in early December we made a very good offer to the employee representatives for a new tariff agreement,” Effner said, explaining that this involved a salary increase of 2.5% for 2013 and a further 2% rise for 2014.

‘We expect to achieve 6% rise’ – NGG union

Other elements included an extra, special payment for staff depending on Coke’s business success, guaranteed recruitment of apprentices for 12 months and an increase in employer contributions to the corporate pension fund, she added.

There was also the possibility of old-age part-time work via continuation of an existing regulation, she said, while Coke had already agreed to increase apprentice monthly wages by €100 ($133) from 2013 and was ready to discuss a further job protection scheme.

Nonetheless, a beverage business market affected by “strongly varying sales volumes”,depending on season, weather and promotional activity, meant there was a need for more flexible regulations on working hours, Effner admitted.

“High flexibility, in particular in production and distribution, is of central importance in order to be able to respond quickly to market demands, and hence be able to maintain the competitiveness of our business,” she added.

But Bohl said that the NGG “expects to achieve our goal of a 6% [pay] rise”, and if it did not achieve this goal at the January 30 talks would intensify strike action across Germany as a whole.

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