Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Nestlé Critics website exposes abuse of trade union rights in the Philippines

Information from trade unionists in the Philippines has been posted on the Nestlé Critics website today. See:

This relates to a long-running dispute, where Nestlé has refused to abide by Supreme Court rulings calling for it to negotiate with the trade union on retirement benefits. The dispute has been running for 7 years. During that time, Nestlé has boasted of its support for the UN Global Compact. Principle 3 of this voluntary initiative states that: "Businesses should uphold the freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining."

Nestlé does not do so, even when ordered by the courts that it should.

Those who went on strike for their rights have been dismissed and they complain that: "The lawful, peaceful picket at Nestlé’s Cabuyao factory is sometimes violently dispersed the police and military, measures Nestlé has encouraged and been fully complicit with."

Two trade union leaders have been assassinated. In 2006 I interviewed the General Secretary of one of the trade unions, to highlight these concerns at a time when Nestlé was invited to hold a reception at the UK Trade Union Congress (TUC) and Labour Party Conference. You can listen to the interview at:

Ironically one of the unions that hosted Nestlé, the GMB, soon after was complaining about Nestlé failure to consult adequately before laying off workers in York. While not showing solidarity with colleagues in the Philippines when it joined with Nestlé in a champagne reception at the TUC, it said: "In particular, GMB will seek to invoke the agreement with our international IUF trade union colleagues in Nestlé to prevent job losses."

The International Union of Foodworkers very strongly condemns Nestlé activities in the Philippines and elsewhere. In fact, the IUF has a site dedicated to Nestlé:

The Philippines is a dangerous place to be seen to oppose powerful vested interests. In 2006 when the pharmaceutical companies were taking the government to court to try to have baby food regulations struck down, and Nestlé was calling for the country heads of UNICEF and WHO to be removed for supporting the measures, the Assistant Solicitor General Nestor J. Ballocillo and his son were shot dead.

I was surprised - and shocked - at the suggestion that this murder may have been linked to the 'Milk Code' case. According to the Philippines Daily Inquirer, see text and link at:

Solicitor General Antonio Eduardo Nachura said that the killing of Ballocillo—as well as his son Benedict—may have something to do with the expropriation of the controversial Ninoy Aquino International Airport terminal 3 (Naia 3) and the Milk Code case that the elder Ballocillo was handling.

When officials and trade union leaders are assassinated, when corporations ignore rulings from the courts, those who suffer need the rest of the world to pay attention. I hope that by raising these issues here, additional people will hear their pleas.

Sometimes it is suggested that the boycott of Nestlé that Baby Milk Action is a threat to Nestlé employees, but my view is that they have far more to fear from Nestlé management when it comes to job security and workers' rights.

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