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In 2002, Nestlé CEO Peter Brabeck-Letmathe (pictured), declared "Our biggest social responsibility on a global basis is job creation."
But what happened under Brabeck's reign as CEO (1997-2007) and continues today was a growth strategy for the world's largest food company that systematically destroyed and degraded tens of thousands of jobs while Nestlé products filled the shelves of supermarkets, corner stores and street stalls around the world.
While a ruthless buying spree swallowed up local brands and created monopolies for its billion-dollar global brands, 80 factories were closed or sold-off - and more are slated to go.
Nestlé has announced record sales growth for the first nine months of 2008, well above its long-term targets, and declared: "280,000 Nestlé people sharing the same vision and commitment to operational excellence, selling billions of products to consumers across the world, day after day." So why aren't Nestlé workers sharing in the billions in extra profits?
Bird nest brand means "Nestlé made" - really?
Vast numbers of consumers traditionally place great confidence in a global brand - particularly so in the case of food, whether for adults or their children and babies.
This is certainly true for Nestlé, the world's largest food company. It is true not least because Nestlé does invest in ensuring rigorous standards. It is also true due to the work of thousands of dedicated Nestlé workers who are members of IUF-affiliated unions. Consumers see the "bird nest" brand icon and normally feel safe and assured.
«You have to see the world as it is, but try and change it anyway»
This phrase was bandied about by Peter Brabeck in 2006 and parroted by Nestlé management staff, including the Head of Zone Europe, Luis Cantarell, who used it to describe his vision of the Group’s development in Europe.
In December 2006, the Nestlé European Works Council addressed an open letter to Mr. Cantarell which began, "As Nestlé employees, we take you at your word. We too want change - and urgently at that".
The Nestlé Corporate Business Principles proclaim that "Nestlé regards its personnel as its most valuable asset", but let's look at how Nestlé defines "its personnel".
Nestlé policy, as expressed in the "Guidelines outlining the rules and conditions in the engagement of temporary and other non-regular employees", carefully distinguishes between 3 main types of "employee arrangements": regular (full time/part time), temporary (direct hire/third-party agency), and outsourced (in-premise/out-premise). These distinctions have major implications for terms and conditions.
"Our biggest social responsibility on a global basis is job creation." - Nestlé CEO Peter Brabeck-Letmathe
Nestlé Corporate Business Principles proclaim the company's commitment to respecting workers' freedom of association (of course they also proclaim the right of employees to freely exercise their right NOT to join a union, a familiar entry point for union-busting). However, while the CSR and public relations hacks make their presentations, Nestlé corporate management has another presentation, a presentation which is restricted to training managers.
"Nestlé regards its personnel as its most valuable asset." - Nesté Corporate Business PrinciplesI
For years, workers at Nestlé's ice cream factory in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, worked around the clock: 3 shifts a day, 7 days a week, producing ice cream for the Caribbean.
In the summer of 2006, following a tough two month strike, the union signed a new collective agreement for a much needed wage increase. Part of the agreement provided for a bonus system based on productivity.