Iraq’s Pepsi staff protest at planned privatization

BAGHDAD - Hundreds of workers at Iraq’s largest soft drink bottler, which produces and distributes Pepsi-Cola under a franchise agreement, staged a protest in central Baghdad Thursday against a plan to privatize the company.

By (DPA)

Published: Thu 6 Mar 2008, 6:49 PM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 1:17 PM

The protestors urged the management of the Baghdad Soft Drinks Company to drop a plan to sell the state’s stake in the company to private business, the Voices of Iraq (VOI) news agency reported.

The state currently owns 51 per cent of the company while the rest is privately owned.

Protestors raised banners saying ‘The new feudal lords are terror makers,’ in reference to those who are pushing for privatizing the company.

The history of Pepsi in Iraq stretches back to 1950 when the brand was launched. It became a popular drink until a socialist economic system was introduced in the 1960s.

Non-franchised local brands of Pepsi were in production but might have not tasted the same as the original soft drink.

The Baghdad Soft Drinks Company became a Pepsi franchisee in 1984. Then production stopped again in the late 1990s when international sanctions were imposed.

The return of Pepsi to Iraq in 2004 was made possible by a franchise agreement between PepsiCo and the Iraqi company, authorizing it to produce and distribute the Pepsi Cola, Seven-Up and Mirinda soft drinks in central Iraq.

The area includes about 40 per cent of the country’s 26 million people.

PepsiCo did not give any financial help to the Baghdad Soft Drinks Company because of mismanagement there, said Kazem Al Tayi, a senior member of a workers’ union.

Management were meeting with shareholders Thursday in a hotel in central Baghdad to discuss a privatization plan, a company worker, Jasim Julan, said.

‘We reject this move and we call on them to respond to our demands. If they don’t, we will go on strike,’ Julan said.

Pepsi lovers in Iraq are not likely to be affected by the strike and possible production stoppages because Pepsi Cola produced in Saudi Arabia, Syria and Iran are flooding Iraq’s markets.

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