November 7, 2003
NESTLE’S “LABOUR MASSACRE” IN COLUMBIA
Trouble arose last year for workers at a Cicolac factory in northern Columbia. Cicolac is one of Nestle’s companies. According to SINAL TRAINAL, a labour union representing workers in the food and beverage industry, on February 27, 2002, Nestle renounced the terms of a collective bargaining agreement it had had with it’s Cicolac workers. SINAL TRAINAL attempted to renegotiate, but Nestle refused, and the workers voted to strike on April 12. Twelve days later, however, the employees reversed their decision after receiving threats from paramilitary groups who promised to kill union leaders if the strike went ahead. It is a common practice in Columbia for corporations to ally themselves with armed organizations in order to control unions. Union leaders are often assassinated.
Left with little choice, the union leaders agreed to meet with Nestle and the Columbian government. On May 7, arbitrators for the government and the company announced their arbitration ruling, but the union arbitrator had already dropped out of the talks because of “his belief that the tribunal was set up to rob the workers of their rights”. The arbitration, which was completely invalid as it was entirely based on Nestle’s interests, denied the workers their yearly raise, health plan, education assistance, and compensation for dismissals, along with other rights.
Nestle then decided to liquidate much of its workforce at at least one Cicolac factory. Union leaders were summoned to Bogota to discuss the unsafe conditions that their workers faced, while the workers themselves were put up in a luxurious hotel in another city. They were subsequently made subject to “pressure, blackmail, and terror” to “force them to renounce their job security”. They were told they had until 10 o’clock on September 27 to give up their job security in return for a miserable compensation scale determined by the May 7 arbitration ruling (which union leaders had not approved). Those who did not offer Nestle their “voluntary retirement” would be fired.
According to the SINAL TRAINAL report, “sick and disabled workers were fired”, and “middle managers were sent to the homes of other workers…at late hours of the night in order to force them to sign the nefarious ‘voluntary agreement’”. In the end, 178 factory workers ‘offered’ to retire, and only a handful remain under contract. In these actions, Nestle had the support of the Columbian state.
Nestle’s systematic undermining of workers rights makes up a strategy of impoverishing the union members to the point that they are powerless to organize themselves, or even maintain a reasonable standard of living. The workers now have so few rights that new hirelings will have no choice but to accept whatever low wages Nestle decides to pay them. The union writes that Nestle “massacred the workers' ability to work and robbed them of their rights, but gave them a few miserable dollars so that they can die slowly in misery and squalor”. SINAL TRAINAL is calling for “solidarity so that Nestle’s new labour massacre is denounced”.
This is yet another instance that provides damning evidence that Nestle puts profits and its own interests above the lives of human beings. This is something the company has consistently done in its promotion of artificial feeding products, and those who participate in the Nestle Boycott campaign refuse to let them get away with it. Nestle must be held accountable for the many lives it has destroyed.
The International Labour Rights Fund is planning to pursue legal action against Nestle on behalf of the workers. For more information on this story, visit www.laborrights.org/urgent/nestle051903.htm.
Please send letters of protest to:
Nestlé de Colombia, Presidente Cesar de los
Rios, transversal 18 No 96 – 41 Bogotá Colombia Fax 011 (57) 1- 5219001 -
CICOLAC Ltda Carrera 9 No 6C – 01 Avenida Hurtado, Valledupar Cesar
Fax 011 095- 5736313.
President of the Republic ÁLVARO URIBE VÉLEZ
Palacio de Nariño Carrera 8 N° 7-26 Bogotá Colombia
Fax 011 5715662071 E-Mail: email@example.com
Procurador General de la Nación EDGARDO MAYA
Carrera 5 N° 15-80 Bogotá Colombia Fax 011 571 3429723
Please send a copy to SINALTRAINAL Carrera
15 No 35 –18 Bogotá Colombia
Fax 011 091- 2455325 . Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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