Coke gets a reprieve in Nepal
Mar 5, 2007 - 10:00:09 AM

Kathmandu, March 5 - After being forced to shut down for over two months, Coca-Cola finally had a reprieve in Nepal, re-opening its factories after an undisclosed pact with the Maoists.x

Bottlers Nepal, the sole bottler of Coke products in the country, had been compelled to close its factories in Kathmandu and Bharatpur in southern Chitwan district from Chrismas eve after a standoff with the Maoists' powerful labour union over the fate of seasonal and contract workers.

The multinational, that enjoys over 80 percent of the market share in carbonated drinks and is a major sponsor of cultural events, had reportedly laid off about 55 contract workers, triggering protests by the Maoist union that forcibly padlocked the Bharatpur factpry.

The closure caused the company an estimated daily loss of NRS 1 million.

However, after mediation by Nepal's Minister of State for Labour and Transport Ramesh Lekhak, who has close ties with the Maoists by virtue of having been a government negotiator during peace talks with the rebels, and other trade unions, the stand-off was resolved.

Bottlers Nepal Ltd and Bottlers Nepal - Ltd, both subsidiaries of SABCO, resumed their operations in Kathmandu and Bharatpur Sunday, the companies' public relations agency said in a terse statement.

However, though Coke finally overcame the Maoist hurdle, it is likely to see more disturbances with an ethnic group calling an indefinite Terai shutdown from Tuesday. The Madhesi Janadhikar Forum, an organisation demanding an autonomous Madhes state for the Terai people, called a transport strike in the southern plains as well as a blockade of trading points on the Indo-Nepal border since last month.

From Tuesday, they have declared an indefinite closure of the Terai region to force the government into sacking Home Minister Krishna Prasad Sitaula, whom they hold responsible for the death of at least 29 people during the protests.

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