Nestle: Global Compact Violator

Corporate Watch
August-September 2002, Newsletter Issue 10

Nestlé is well known for its irresponsible marketing of breast-milk substitutes in the developing world. The company also has an appalling record when it comes to labour and human rights violations. Andy Higginbottom from the Colombian Solidarity Campaign reports on some of Nestlé's recent activities in Columbia:

Despite its dreadful record on infant formula marketing, Nestle is one of the companies participating in the UN ‘Global Compact'; the much-derided partnership in which corporations pledge to abide by (unmonitored) human rights and environmental principles. All very laudable, however SINALTRAINAL, the Colombian Foodworkers Union, reports widespread practices and policies contradicting Nestlé's claim to fully support and ensure labour and human rights. Ever since Nestlé arrived in Colombia 50 years ago the workers have battled to form a union. Since the ‘dirty war' erupted in Colombia in the early 1980s, trade unionists have been on the front line of targeted, but unofficial, repression. SINALTRAINAL was formed as an industrial union in 1982. According to SINALTRAINAL seven of its members working at Nestlé have been assassinated since then.

The principal perpetrators of such disappearances are the paramilitary death squads. Although there is a certain separation between the agents of repression and official entities, the links are an open secret. Human Rights Watch reports that it was officers in the Colombian army who set up the AUC's Calima Bloc, a new paramilitary front established to attack the social movement in towns in the Valle de Cauca in 1999.

Although there is no evidence connecting Nestlé with these murders, the logic of the human rights violations, to remove trade unions and other social movements, corresponds with the company's own aggressive stance. There are at least three cases that indicate a policy drive direct from Nestlé itself to liquidate the union's presence from its Colombia operation. For example, in the final weeks of 2001, management at Nestlé subsidiary ‘Comestibles La Rosa' threatened workers that they must either renounce union membership or lose their jobs. Nestlé subsidiary Cicolac also tried to break a collective agreement covering 400 workers, sack 96 workers and break the contracts of another 58 workers so that their jobs could be contracted out through labour agencies.

Another example of Nestlé's union busting activities is the case of Agribrands Purina Colombia S.A., a national producer of animal feed. According to the company, Nestlé is in negotiations to purchase five processing plants, on the condition that the union is terminated and all of the workers resign from their jobs. This will enable Nestlé to lower production costs by hiring new workers with temporary contracts, without a union organization, and without a collective agreement. The 400 workers whose jobs are threatened have worked for the company for an average of 18 years.

SINALTRAINAL claims that Nestlé has also recently switched from domestic supplies of fresh milk to imported milk products which ‘has generated misery for small and medium dairy farmers and for peasants'. Nestlé also benefits from the depressed market in coffee prices, which has been wreaking havoc in the coffee growing areas.

SINALTRAINAL is a very good example of how workers in the developing world have taken the initiative to internationalise resistance to the multinationals. The Colombian union highlights the situation in the Philippines, where the workers have been on strike against Nestlé's violation of pension rights. 13 strikers were beaten by the police, and now the factory gates are guarded by a 200 strong private security force.

In the words of the union: "Nestlé converts the factories into camps for the public security forces in order to create terror in the community, destroy the unity of the workers, and misinform the members of the union, with the goal of putting them against the leaders and destroying the movement. This is the policy of Nestlé all over the world. This reality urgently demands the globalization of solidarity against the globalization of misery, oppression, and death of the communities."

For more information on the Colombian Solidarity Campaign contact: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it Corporate Watch Nestlé profile:

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