Coca-Cola Beverages Pakistan Ltd (CCBPL) decided to outsource distribution and sell off its ageing fleet of delivery trucks, resulting in laying off about 150 drivers and helpers. CCBPL feared that when announcement was made, there would be backlash from the union, especially as the president and vice president of the union were also amongst those to be laid off. Potentially the issue could have blown up into a full fledged crisis, affecting all Coke plants throughout the country. Further the issue could also go off on a tangent, away from the lay-off into boycott calls for Coke products, with usual anti-American sentiment being ignited and renewed allegations of Coke being Jewish product. APR as the PR agency was called in to give strategic advice.
COCA-COLA – APR’S ROLE
Conducted discussion sessions with all relevant management executives – top management, HR, legal, production, others to determine all possible reactions – strike, lock-out, plant closure, union action at other plants throughout the country, physical harassment, kidnapping of company executives, willful damage to company property, etc.
- Developed, together with client, a response to each possible scenario
- Developed a holding statement
- Developed Q&A
- Developed a press release
- Briefed company spokespersons
- Developed positive stories of Company’s contribution to society and to the economy, to be kept ready in case of need
- Advised client to limit advertising during the crisis period
- Proactively briefed contacts in law enforcement agencies in event of a law and order situation taking place
- Established contact with friends in media to advise us as far as possible before publication of any negative stories or statements by the union
- Got published positive stories about Coke in the interim period, not connected at all with the labour issue
- Stood by the client on a 24/7 basis for over two weeks until all issues were resolved and the matter was closed
As expected the union when told of the lay-off protested very strongly and even violently, even though the severance package was more than generous. However since the entire issue had been proactively handled, the company management was prepared at every stage and the crisis was guided through its course in a manner that substantially limited negative fallout. In the end the laid off employees accepted a final negotiated package and it was back to business as usual.