Michael Pascoe writes:

Good PR is about avoiding bad
headlines in the first place, not hosing down fires afterwards, so
there are no marks for the way Coca-Cola Amatil tried to spin itself out of last week’s negative publicity – by letting an employee shot five times in the line of duty keep his house.

A
soft soul might have some sympathy for Coke in that it’s copped the bad
publicity when it was actually its insurance company, QBE, that dragged shooting
victim Craig Pareezer to the NSW Court of Appeal to overturn a $2.9
million compensation claim and recoup the $560,000 that had already
been paid to him. (Repaying that sum would reportedly have cost him his
house.) It’s standard that the insurer takes
control of this kind of case and the company paying the premiums just does what
it’s told.

It doesn’t have to be that way of course,
particularly if you’re a sugary drink pusher for whom image is
absolutely everything. And it looks like Coke still managed to make a
bit of a mess of its backdown. Coke released a statement on Friday
saying it had a long and proud record of being nice to its employees
and would “work with QBE” so that the $560,000 would not be recovered
and the company would “also contribute to Mr Pareezer’s ongoing cost of living and
we are contacting him to confirm this”.

That sounds all right – but then there’s Mr Pareezer’s side of it, according to AAP:

Mr Pareezer said he was contacted yesterday afternoon by
the company for the first time in the nine years since he was shot, but
payments for ongoing living costs were not discussed.

“They
haven’t offered anything, they have just said that they would talk to
me forever but they haven’t offered me anything at all, other than not
having to repay the $560,000,” he told Macquarie Radio. Mr Pareezer
said that money had been spent on medical expenses arising from the
shooting.

He also denied a claim by Coca-Cola Amatil’s
spokeswoman, Sally Loane, that QBE had offered him a confidential
settlement of more than $1 million.

Oh dear – nine
years without having a chat with a very seriously wounded worker sounds
long but not proud. And as for C-C Amatil’s new head flack talking about
a confidential settlement offer … well, it doesn’t sound very
confidential for a start. Things don’t always go better with Coke.

Peter Fray

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