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Reportage. Workers at the largest Coca-Cola plant in Europe protested the dismissal of 14 colleagues. The company sent in muscle — and weapons.

Coca-Cola used tasers against Adl Cobas workers

First, there were the pushes ordered from above. Then, without ceremony, the punches came, even against women. At the end, they resorted to tasers and stun guns. On Wednesday around 10:30 a.m., the labor dispute at the largest Coca-Cola plant in Europe (450 employees) has been “resolved” by its security service.

It was the latest manifestation of a protest that has generated bad publicity against the global beverage brand for weeks. Adl Cobas union started the struggle with the workers of internal logistics, mostly migrants. First, they striked with their leaders on March 8 in front of the gates at via Molino di Sopra; then, the police in riot gear occupied the factory roof; on March 11; a procession went from the church to the town hall (for the first time in 42 years of activity of Coca Cola in Nogara).

Adl Cobas defended 14 layoffs due to “redundancies,” including 12 union members and two representatives from the RSU [Italian acronym of Single Union representative]. On Wednesday, they all went back to the plant’s entrance, where they engaged in scuffles with the security personnel until the unprecedented culminating episode of “tasers” used against the protesters. Two victims needed medical care at Legnago hospital.

This is a disturbing yet symptomatic story that was discussed Thursday in Parliament with the urgent question to the Minister of Interior Minniti and Minister of Labor Poletti by Representatives Nicola Fratoianni, Giulio Marcon and Giovanni Paglia (Italian Left).

For a long time, Coca-Cola has “quenched” employment needs with a kind of social peace never tarnished before, especially in times of crisis. But as it happens across the northeast, logistics services blow up the cardboard façade of labor management, which in many ways anticipated the “reforms” of the Renzi government by decades. There are about 100 workers at the warehouse that a little less than three years ago was entrusted to the Swiss multinational company Kuhene Nagel, which subcontracts the logistics services to the company Consorzio Soluzioni Globali. It is not enough, because the chain stretches to the company ConsorzioVega.

Through Zetajob (one of its related subsidiaries), on March 1, Vega replaced the Smart coop and triggered the fuse. Throughout the chain of subcontractors, within the intricate supply chain that characterizes the “entrepreneurs” of the industry, the rights of workers are eliminated. The new organization has 14 fewer permanent contracts, although it calls for the increase of the number of seasonal workers. And to top it all, almost all the workers out of the job are Adl Cobas union members. After three weeks, the tone of the dispute has risen, until the resounding order to “fire the tasers” shouted Wednesday morning.

“Coca Cola and the cooperatives use layoffs on workers: this is very serious, and it raises anew the question of exploitation by clients. Just when the European standards and a referendum propose to increase the level of protection, starting from the protection of acquired rights through the purchases of contracts that constitute the sale of a business,” noted Roberto Malesani, representative of Adl Cobas Verona.

Finally, the story brings to light two little-known aspects. As recounted in the investigation of “Altraeconomia” in 2013, the corporation obtained a concession from the Veneto region to take advantage of three water wells in Nogara, paying €13,406 a year instead of the almost €600,000 at the regular rate.

The use of the taser, however, reminds us of Act number 559 / C-50652-E-97 dated Dec. 10, 1997. In the Act, the Ministry of the Interior catalogued the Thomas A. Swift’s Electronic Rifle — invented in the U.S. in the late ’60s — as a “weapon” in the same category of brass knuckles. It reads: “These tools can be purchased only by those with a license to carry weapons or get a clearance to purchase them. They must be denounced and it is absolutely prohibited to carry them (offenders will get between 18 months to three years of incarceration).”