KMU on CA decision: Where’s national interest in protecting Swiss firm Nestle?
Labor center slams unjust decision upholding firing of Nestle workers
Labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno slammed the Court of Appeals decision which essentially upheld the corporate interests of Nestle and justified the illegal dismissal of more than 500 Nestle workers, saying invoking “national interest” as primary ground only grants big foreign corporations more power to abuse Filipino workers.
KMU said the CA decision, which upheld the firing of Nestle workers who went on strike over Nestle’s refusal to grant retirement benefits in the collective bargaining agreement negotiations, is “simply unjust and unreasonable.”
“Where’s national interest in protecting the operations of Swiss company Nestle when the rights of Filipino workers are heavily under attack? Would there be a national emergency if workers, who are simply fighting for their just demands, refuse to abide by the DOLE order? KMU Chairperson Elmer “Bong” Labog asked angrily.
“How could workers return to their work if truckloads of heavily-armed AFP and PNP units are the ones implementing DOLE’s Assumption of Jurisdication and return-to-work orders?” he added.
Prior to the return-to-work order, an Assumption of Jurisdiction Order was issued by DOLE in Nov. 28, 2001 over the union’s notice of strike, enabling police and military forces to swoop down on the Cabuyao factory to preempt the strike.
The Supreme Court already ruled in favor of Nestle workers in 1991, saying that retirement benefits is a mandatory collective bargaining issue. In March 2008, it reaffirmed its decision as final and executory. The labor department, however, has not lifted a finger to implement the decision and has even denied the writ of execution filed by the workers last March 5.
“Nestle has continously ignored the two decisions of the highest court for several years. I ask the Court of Appeals, who’s the one breaking the law?” said Labog.
Sheer violence against workers
In their seven-year strike, Nestle workers have suffered violent dispersals by police and military forces who have an encampment inside the Cabuyao plant up to now.
On Sept. 22, 2005, Nestle Cabuyao union president Diosdado “Ka Fort” Fortuna was gunned down by suspected hired armed agents of Nestle on his way home.
“Clearly, the workers have no option but to continue their strike amid sheer intimidation by the armed forces in cooperation with Nestle. It is their best defense against Nestle’s desperate strategy to use the courts and armed forces to attack and end their just struggle,” Labog said.
“It is simply infuriating to hear that the appelate court has upheld corporate interest over the just and legal demands of Nestle workers. This is certainly a bad ruling that further exposes Philippine courts as anti-labor instruments of local and international capitalists.
"The recent CA decision has again clarified to the public that justice in this land favors big foreign corporations, not Filipino workers who are victims of unfair labor pratices committed by such big businesses,”said Labog.
Behind Nestle ad blitz
Media such as print, radio, and television continues to be bombarded by Nestlé commercial advertisements, featuring big names in Philippine show business. Vilma Santos, Cesar Montano, Tweety de Leon, Margie Barretto, Ruffa Gutierrez, Ai-Ai delas Alas, and Kris Aquino are only some of the highly-paid personalities promoting the values-oriented “Choose Wellness, Choose Nestlé” commercial aphorism.
What the public does not know (or what might have been kept from their knowledge), the Swiss-owned multinational company covers up its most atrocious acts against its workers and scoffs at the Supreme Court (SC) decision by way of conditioning the public with the hypocritical “choose wellness” ad. Nestlé promotes a culture of deception while denying justice to its workers for more than five years now.
The Nestlé Cabuyao workers in Laguna, Philippines went to strike on January 14, 2002 when the company used as pre-condition in the collective bargaining negotiations the non-inclusion of the workers’ Retirement Benefits. Despite the sacrifices perceived by the workers, the legitimate strike is backed by the 1991 SC decision affirming the NLRC (National Labor Relations Commission) decision that the Retirement Benefits is a legitimate collective bargaining agreement (CBA) issue.
Unfortunately, the workers’ picketline which was supposed to barricade the company gates was often destroyed by the management’s brutal rampage. Company guards, goons, police and military are garrisoned within and outside the gates.
The campaign “There’s Blood in Your Coffee, Boycott Nestlé” was launched by the workers as one of the leverages to air their legitimate grievance to the public and compel the Nestlé management to settle the labour dispute. It also aimed to counter the vast influence of Nestlé in media as well as its monopoly in the Philippine market.
At the start, the campaign hardly affects the company’s market reputation. However, the campaign caught popular attention and gained wide support in the local, as well as the international community, when two Nestlé unionists were murdered consecutively in September 2005. Luciano Enrique Romero Molina, a Sinaltrainal leader and Nestlé worker who was among the many workers tagged by Nestlé as persona non grata, was murdered on September 11 in Colombia. Diosdado Fortuna, Nestlé Cabuyao union president and chairman of Pagkakaisa ng Manggagawa sa Timog Katagalugan-Kilusang Mayo Uno (Solidarity of Workers in Southern Tagalog-May First Movement), was murdered while on his way home from the picketline on September 22.
Many believe that the murder of the two Nestlé workers is not coincidental. The murder of Nestlé Cabuyao union president Meliton Roxas in front of the company gates during their strike in 1989 is another case to prove Nestlé’s blood debts to its workers.
The SC ruled on the labour dispute in Nestlé Cabuyao on August 22, 2006, reaffirming its 1991 decision; hence, directs the Nestlé management and union to go back to the negotiating table to pursue the CBA negotiations.
The Nestlé management persistently snubs the highest court of the land. In fact, in its statement in a news article, Nestlé claimed that the workers who tried to barricade the company gates on January 14 are no longer Nestlé workers (Niña Catherine Calleja, “Workers at multinational food firm barricade factory”,Philippine Daily Inquirer 17 January 2007: A15). Such a statement diverts the real issue and is a blatant disrespect to the latest SC decision.
The ads blitzkrieg came in time and attuned to complement the news statement after January 14.
As Nestlé lavishly spends millions in ads, we have to scrutinize well enough their many purposes, aside from the endorsement of products and conquering the market. After probably knowing the real score, we don’t have to choose wellness if it’s Nestlé. Do we?