Last week's announcement of an impending change at the top of The Coca-Cola Company has been attacked as "a wasted opportunity".

The company announced on Thursday (6 December) that current CEO, Neville Isdell, will step down from the post in July next year, to be replaced by current president and COO, Muhtar Kent. Isdell will continue in his role as company chairman until the company AGM in 2009.

US workers' union The International Brotherhood of Teamsters said late last week that Coca-Cola's new leadership structure "fails to establish the independent board leadership critical to ensuring objective board oversight and management accountability".

"The implementation of a new succession plan wastes an opportunity for The Coca-Cola Company to act in the interests of its investors and institute a policy requiring the chairman of the board to be a fully independent director," the workers' body said.

"While this succession plan may change the company's leadership structure for the time being, it's still business as usual at The Coca-Cola Company," said Thomas Keegel, general secretary-treasurer of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. "The company has made no policy to create independent board leadership, and no such leadership currently exists. Chairman Isdell has served as CEO since 2004 and has been with the Coca-Cola system since 1966. Shareholders need an independent leader to ensure effective board oversight at The Coca-Cola Company, and now is the time."

The Teamsters General Fund has filed a shareholder proposal for Coca-Cola's AGM next year, calling on Coca-Cola's board of directors to adopt a policy ensuring the chairman of the board be an independent director who has not served as an executive officer of the company. The fund said it believes that an independent board chair would "best ensure that management acts strictly in the best interests of the company and its shareholders".

"We will continue to fight for independent oversight at Coca-Cola," Keegel added.