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The Invisible Illness at Nestle Araras

In 2004, working conditions at Nestlé's largest plant in Brazil - and fourth-largest plant in the world - were documented by the IUF Latin America regional secretariat in a booklet entitled Silent Massacre: The Invisible Illness at Nestlé Araras. Following publication in Spanish in November 2004 and in Portuguese in July 2005, this booklet is now available in English and may be ordered from the IUF secretariat.

Drawing on the testimonials of eight former workers from the Araras coffee plant near São Paulo, this publication provides evidence of the widespread occurence of repetitive strain injuries (RSI) among workers at that factory since the mid-1990's. The incidence of RSI increased dramatically following the closure of the coffee plants in Argentina and Chile in 2001 and the transfer of production to the Araras plant. Increased production coupled with stagnating to diminishing staffing levels and the rise in productivity demands created the conditions for the deterioration of workers' health and safety. This was aggravated by a working environment characterised by arrogance, inflexibility, coercion on the part of management, and little room for worker control over processes and work organisation.

As a result of IUF work on RSI in the region and the publication of the booklet, a joint union-Nestlé working group has been created in Brazil and a programme to improve physical ergonomics in the plant and the physical well-being of the workers has been instituted. An update on the situation is currently in preparation and will be presented to the IUF-Latin America Regional Conference which takes place in early October 2006.

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Click here to read the article posted in February 2005 on this subject.