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Korean Labour Relations Commission Finds Nestlé Guilty of "Unfair and Illegal Labour Practices"

Posted to the IUF website 24-Nov-2003

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Korea's Chungbook Province Labour Relations Committee has ruled in favor of the Nestlé Korea Labour Union in their dispute with Nestlé Korea. In a decision published on November 16, the Commission determined that Nestlé's "refusal to hold negotiations with the union and the sending of a company letter dated September 9, 2003 [in which the company threatened to move all production out of the country - IUF] are unfair and illegal labour practices." The Commission instructed Nestlé to "immediately" enter into good faith negotiations with the union, and further determined that Nestlé "carried out all sorts of intimidation and intervention" in the dispute. The Commission ordered the company to issue "a public and written apology for committing [its] unfair labour practices."

In its detailed examination of the complaint brought by the union, the Commission affirmed that Nestlé broke the law when it transferred without prior negotiation 44 employees to a newly created distribution division which was widely interpreted as a prelude to forced layoffs. The September 9 letter to the workers' families - sent just before the major Chuseok holidays - read: "I urge you to voluntarily return to work…to block the unhappy disaster of divestiture from the plant in Korea by joining your efforts with those of management."

Nestlé international management in Vevey, Switzerland denies all responsibility for the dispute despite the fact that its Korean management has publicly invoked the authority of corporate headquarters in threatening to move all production out of Korea. Nestlé denies as well responsibility for facilitating a negotiated resolution to the dispute. Nestlé Vevey's refusal to accept responsibility for global industrial relations is the company's traditional shield against the IUF's insistence that responsibility for global labour relations necessarily entails recognition of and negotiation with the IUF as its global counterpart (see our recent editorial Global Profits but No Global Rights for Workers).

As part of its program in Geneva, the union delegation from Nestlé Korea met with the Swiss government's OECD National Contact Point at the IUF secretariat in Geneva on November 21. The union supplied the contact point with additional information on company violations of national law and the OECD Guidelines. (The background to the IUF's submission to the OECD in Korea and Switzerland can be read be clicking here. The public statement on the November 21 meeting by the Swiss National Contact Point can be read here.

The union had to cut short its leafleting action at Nestlé in Vevey when police arrived to inform them that they had been "requested" to let them know that leafleting without a police permit was illegal.

The Korean Nestlé unionists returned again to Nestlé headquarters in Vevey on November 24 to pass out leaflets informing the public of the Korean dispute and the anti-union practices of Nestlé's Korean management. Their peaceful leafleting came to a stop when local police informed them that they had been requested to inform them that distributing leaflets without a permit was a violation of the law and that they would have to immediately desist.