Eight months after strike action against union-busting forced Nestlé Hong Kong management to agree to union recognition and formal negotiations, the IUF-affiliated Hong Kong Nestlé Workers Union is still denied these basic
The union, which was formed when workers went on strike in July 2008 to protest abusive labour practices, fought for its survival in February 2009 when the company launched an aggressive assault on the union by suspending the union president, Chan Pong Yin. This aggressive response by management came only two weeks after the union called off industrial action as a sign of good will and to pave the way for negotiations on granting permanent employment to temporary workers and establishing formal union recognition. The strike ended quickly when management backed down, withdrawing the suspension of Chan Pong Yin and another worker suspended at the same time.
Stop Excessive Working Hours!
Despite management assurances during the resolution of the strike, the company immediately punished workers who participated in the industrial action by deducting their wages and issuing warning letters against several workers. The union protested and management withdrew the warning letters and halted wage deductions.
Once again management promised union recognition and formal negotiations and in March the union acted on this by submitting a draft collective agreement proposal for negotiation. Ignoring this proposal, management instead requested in June that the union sign a framework agreement that commits the union to supporting the company to increase its efficiency and productivity, refrain from various kinds of industrial action or protest actions, and maintain complete confidentiality, but provides no guarantees at all regarding union recognition or collective bargaining rights. The union refused to sign.
Adding to management’s hypocrisy is the guarantee that the union is free to organize and recruit more members, but the union cannot distribute leaflets anywhere on the company premises or even to talk to workers about any union-related matters during working hours.
In the meantime a new round of casual hiring has been launched, but this time casual workers are on (irregular) short term contracts depending on the needs of the company at that time. This employment arrangement by management is designed to avoid any further claims to permanent employment and to control the number of union members in the factory.
Deeply frustrated by the refusal of Nestlé Hong Kong to fulfill its promises, the union is again calling on the world’s largest food company to respect internationally recognized trade union rights as embodied in ILO conventions and OECD Guidelines on Multinational Enterprises.
Good Food, Good Life, More Buybacks…
Nestlé announced on October 22 that it will top its planned 2009 share buyback program by an additional CHF 3 billion in 2009, roughly 3 billion US dollars. Nestlé’s Chief Financial Officer explained at a news conference that this year’s projected CHF 7 billion buyback would mean that Nestlé will have returned over CHF 40 billion to shareholders in the form of dividends and buybacks over the last 4 years. Workers at Nestlé Hong Kong would be pleased to learn they’re helping “create shared value” of this magnitude – without even being permanently employed at Nestlé.