Student road show raps Coca Cola labor malpractice

By John Sexton
0 CommentsPrint E-mail, November 19, 2009
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Students from the Coca Cola Monitoring Group last week took their road show on the American multinational's labor law violations to Nanjing Agricultural University. The group is mounting a rolling campaign around campuses and workplaces to highlight poor working conditions at the company's plants.

Students from the Coca Cola Monitoring Group take their campaign to improve working conditions at the multinational’s bottling plants to Nanjing Agricultural University.

Students from the Coca Cola Monitoring Group take their campaign to improve working conditions at the multinational's bottling plants to Nanjing Agricultural University. 

Following an undercover investigation in 2008, the group published a lengthy report exposing systematic violation of China's labor laws at Coca Cola bottling plants in China. At some factories the group investigated, more than 90 percent of the shop floor staff were contract workers, in violation of Chinese labor law which lays down that contract workers should be used for short periods only. Furthermore the pay and working conditions of the contract workers were very poor, with many working 12 hours per day for an entire month without time off.

In summer 2009 the students undertook a similar investigation in a bottling plant in Hangzhou. The difficult conditions faced by the workers were underlined when one of the student volunteers was attacked and badly beaten by employees of a labor contracting firm after going to the firm's office to collect his wages. When the student made a formal complaint against his attackers, he was briefly detained by the police.

Campaigners from the group said their banner and leaflets were well-received by the students at Nanjing Agricultural University. The leaflets claimed to expose "the real Coca Cola" and called on university students to join the campaign to force Coca Cola to comply with China's labor laws. A number of students signed up and pledged to take an active part in campaign activities.

After China introduced a new labor law that gave additional rights to workers in January 2008, many companies stepped up their use of contact workers to avoid having to improve working conditions at their plants. The American Chamber of Commerce protested against the new law.

In April 2008, four months after the new law was introduced, COFCO Coca-Cola Beverages in Guizhou transferred its workforce to a labor contracting company called Rongcheng. Following the transfer, workers said their monthly salary of 2,500 yuan (US$366) fell by 50 percent.

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