Published: 08/05/2012

Workers at Nestlé Nicaragua, most of whom are women, complain that continuous pressure on the workforce is producing a continuous rise in occupational illnesses and injuries. 

This was a key conclusion of the first in a series of training workshops in Matagalpa organized by the IUF-affiliated SINPROLAC, the union at the Nestlé Nicaragua factory, on April 29. Workers attribute the high rate of repetitive strain injuries at the factory to the application of the “Nestlé Continuous Excellence” high-performance work program, which encourages worker competition and a continuous increase in the workload – with no increase in pay.

At least 1 in 5 of the plant’s workers suffer from job-related musculoskeletal disorders and complain of growing respiratory problems, presumably linked to the presence of coffee particles in the workplace. The union has long contended that management fails to follow prescribed health and safety procedures, and workers struggle with an abusive management regime where managers threaten workers who assert their rights.

Valentina Méndez of the Matagalpa labour inspectorate attended the workshop and confirmed that inspections had found cases of abuse and retaliation against workers; meetings with the company had resulted in improvements in occupational health and safety, sickness benefits and holiday entitlement, but problems remained and she urged workers to continue to defend their rights and dignity.