High Court strikes down Coca-Cola’s decision to lay off 821 workers in Spain

Drinks firm will appeal to the Supreme Court and does not plan to re-hire bottling plant employees

Coca-Cola workers protest against the layoffs.
Coca-Cola workers protest against the layoffs.EFE

The High Court has struck down a labor adjustment plan that laid off over 800 workers at Coca-Cola’s Spanish bottling company, and is forcing the firm to re-hire them.

According to the court, the plan to dismiss an initial 1,190 employees – a number that was ultimately reduced to 821 – at Coca-Cola Iberian Partners (CCIP) and shut down plants in Fuenlabrada (Madrid), Mallorca, Alicante and Asturias is invalid because of a number of technicalities.

For one, the merger of eight bottling companies that created CCIP was not carried out in a lawful manner; the court also found that the changes were not properly explained to the company union, and that there was illegal strikebreaking when management transferred product distribution from the striking plants to fully operational ones.

The decision represents a logistical headache for CCIP, since the four bottling plants were shut down after the layoffs in April, and have not been in operation for some time.

The ruling represents a logistical headache for Coca-Cola, as the bottling plants were shut down after the layoffs

“We will demand that workers get readmitted,” said José Vicente Canet, secretary of union action at the CCOO labor union’s agricultural and food department.

Spain’s other main labor union, UGT, asked the company to “solve its business problems by opening a negotiation with the unions in which employment is not affected.”

But for now at least, CCIP has no intention of observing the court’s decision. Instead, it plans to appeal to the Supreme Court, although the unions can request that the High Court forces the company to execute the ruling if no agreement is reached.

In a statement, CCIP management said that the court’s decision was “incomprehensible” and added that it did not “affect the situation of the four plants that were shut down.”

Nor does it mean “the automatic readmission of affected workers, who will have to wait for a firm decision following the appeal.”

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