Spanish strikes loom as Coke bottler axes four factories

Muhtar Kent, Sol Daurella and Marcos de Quinto (left to right) sign the March 2013 bottler agreement in Madrid

Coca-Cola Iberian Partners has enraged Spanish unions by announcing plans to close four factories and shed around 700 staff in the brand’s second-largest EU market.

Coke’s newly consolidated bottler in Spain and Portugal has begun a 30-day consultation period with unions and staff ending February 21 but trade unions FITAG UGT and Federación Agroalimentariade Comisiones Obreras plan demonstrations and strikes to “avoid layoffs at all costs”.

FITAG UGT has agreed to start a process of mobilization with other unions to oppose the move, but said members will begin two-day strikes in all workplaces during the consultation, while street demos could culminate in a large-scale event in Madrid in its last week.

Bottler aims to safeguard ‘future viability’

Several weeks ago Coca-Cola Iberian Partners told unions that it planned to implement redundancies as a consequence of the closures and said the changed would affect around 1,200 staff at seven bottlers nationwide, since 500 more affected staff must move to other sites to keep their jobs.

Coke employs 4,200 staff in Spain, and under the plan sites in Fuenlabrada (Madrid), Alicante, Palma de Mallorca and Asturias will be closed, with Coca-Cola Iberian Partners insisting the changes are necessary on efficiency and competitiveness grounds to safeguard the firm’s “future viability”.

But the unions are in a combative mood and insist the company is not loss making.

March 2013 saw Coke CEO Muhtar Kent sign a deal with the local, led by chair Sol Daurella, that saw it become the group’s unified bottling partner for Spain and Portugal.

Unifying the activities of seven bottlers

Kent said he believed that having one unified bottler in Spain would ultimately prove more efficient and effective as Coke aimed to meet the needs of retail and restaurant customers.

Daurella said when the deal was signed: “The integration process in Iberia, which began two years ago, aims to unify the activities of seven companies with different territorial scopes and to simplify the shareholder system.”

At the time, colorful Coca-Cola Iberia president, Marcos de Quinto held up Spain and Portugal as a worldwide example of “how to combine the strengths of a global company with the territorial strength of bottling partners”.

“The challenge is to build a model system, exportable to other markets, where we can replicate all the capacities that the Coca-Cola system has shown in the Iberian market,” he said.

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