On December 25, a day that for many symbolizes the spirit of generous human kindness, the actions of the world’s biggest food company in 2011 were far from generous for many of its workers in Indonesia.
Nestlé workers at Panjang, having spent years trying to access their fundamental human rights at work, became the subject of arbitrary and vindictive action by the company. They became victims of a perverse lottery which if you lost out on meant you also lost your job and livelihood.
What happened at Panjang? On October 5 workers voted to call off a strike and return to work normally from 1pm. The first shift that reported to work at 2pm worked normally. However in a stunning example of arbitrary, unfair and vindictive management action union members on two later shifts that day and overnight were handed notices informing them that they had “resigned”. Apparently some unknown management deadline to return to work had passed some time during the afternoon of October 5 and if by pure circumstance you were on the wrong shift you were history. To add to this outrageous action by the company that very afternoon union leaders were in a government-hosted mediation session with the company over some outstanding collective bargaining issues! By what the company will no doubt claim as a coincidence these principal union leaders were all on later shifts that day and so all were fired!
“This became an absurd and tragic lottery. Dozens of our members have now lost their jobs and livelihoods simply because they were on the wrong shift. Had they all reported to work at 2pm with that shift they would probably have been fired for being on the site without authorization. Either way they were destined to lose Nestlé’s lottery” said IUF general secretary Ron Oswald. He continued, “If this is Nestlé’s idea of fair and civilized labour relations it cannot be allowed to stand. It is arbitrary, brutal and needs to be reversed. Any fair and impartial assessment of what actually happened at Panjang could only lead to that conclusion. We will continue to insist on a just remedy for our members no matter how long it takes“