Coca-Cola workers rush to get bottling back on track

Striking workers back on the job after settlement reached at Brampton bottling plant.
(AP Photo/Thibault Camus, file)

The thirst for better working conditions at Brampton’s Coca-Cola plant has finally been satisfied.

On Sunday, workers from CAW local 973 at the Coca-Cola Refreshments Canada bottling facility in Brampton ended their three-week strike, approving a new three-year deal with 83 per cent support.

Now, the number one priority for staff is catching up on the weeks of lost production and distribution.

“What we’re doing right now is responding to it as quick as we can to ensure that any customers who were upset are now going to be satisfied,” CAW national president Jerry Dias told YourMississaugaBiz.com. “We’re very cognizant of the fact that it affected them and summer is the busiest time of the year for Coca-Cola.”

Approximately 35 per cent of products in Canada are manufactured at the Westcreek Boulevard plant.

Dias called the facility a ‘shadow of itself’ during the strike, but an agreement was reached before there was any major disruptions to the production schedule. “I think that was the motivation for everyone to get this thing done,” he said.

The current agreement will expire June, 2016.

Under the new agreement, new workers will receive wage increases of 50 cents in their second and third year of employment.  Employees with the defined benefit pension plan will also see an increase of $3.75 per month for each year of service.

Dias said overall the union did not make any concessions when it came to key issues like a different pension plan for new hires and outsourcing some work.

“We protected jobs and we made sure that new employees with Coca-Cola are going to have a defined benefit pension plan,” he said, estimating approximately 20 staff would have been immediately affected.

Opened 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.

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.

The new, signed agreement was also particularly important as the Brampton facility represents nearly one-fifth of Coca Cola’s Canadian unionized workers, whose rights, conditions and benefits often set the standard for other workplaces and trade unions.

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