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Trade unionists in the Philippines call for solidarity to bring Nestlé to the negotiating table while in the UK Nestlé heads to the Labour Party Conference

Press release 20 September 2006

Luz Baculo, General Secretary of the PAMANTIK trade union in the Philippines, has made a call for Nestlé trade unionists in the UK to show solidarity as their strike nears its fifth anniversary (click here for sound bite). Baby Milk Action, which coordinates the international Nestlé boycott over the company's aggressive marketing of baby foods, interviewed the General Secretary after being contacted by the union.

The calls come as Nestlé sponsors a fringe meeting at the Labour Party Conference (right) on slavery. Last week Nestlé apparently refused to attend a public meeting called by US Senator Horkins on the failure of the chocolate industry to address child slavery in its cocoa supply chain.

CSM flier

The International Labour Rights Fund has brought legal action against Nestlé on behalf of children in Ivory Coast using US legislation on 'crimes against humanity'.

The strike in the Philippines was called as Nestlé refused to negotiate over retirement benefits despite the Supreme Court and National Labour Relations Committee ruling that it should do so. A day of action was organised in the Philippines on 13 September when the Court reiterated its ruling that Nestlé should negotiate and came just days after Nestlé was wining and dining UK trade unionists at the Trade Union Congress (TUC) meeting in Brighton (click here for details).

[STOP PRESS: Ironically one of the unions that organised that reception with Nestlé, the GMB, is calling for international solidarity over job losses at Nestlé's York factory announced today (see below).]

The 22 September marks the first anniversary of the assassination of the President of the trade union in the Philippines, Diosdado Fortuna. There will be a vigil on the Nestlé picket line and an ecumenical mass. A few days later in the UK Nestlé is sponsoring a Christian Socialist Movement fringe meeting at the Labour Party Conference to promote itself as a responsible company taking action against forced labour.


Sound bite: Luz Baculo calls for international solidarity. During the five-year campaign strikers have struggled to buy food for their families and to send their children to school. Fifteen workers have passed away while Nestlé refuses to negotiate. You can listen to the interview using Realplayer. Click here to visit the Realplayer website to install the free software if needed (look for the 'free player' button on the page).

Long interview with Luz Baculo (22 minutes - edited from telephone conversation).

Report on the assassination of Diosdado Fortuna from the International Union of Food Workers.

Mike Brady, Campaigns and Networking Coordinator at Baby Milk Action, said:

"It concerns us when organisations that should be our natural partners join forces with Nestlé in public relations events because it may cause people to question whether the boycott of Nestlé is still on. The boycott remains essential as Nestlé continues to be the worst of the baby food companies in pushing its products and undermining breastfeeding. It does force some changes. Fundamental to our work is giving a voice to people in developing countries so when we were contacted about the day of action in the Philippines we arranged to interview a respresentative of the union by telephone. It comes as no surprise that Nestlé is refusing to negotiate with the union in the Philippines while wining and dining trade unionists here and popping up at the Labour Party Conference. If Nestlé executives were shown the door a little more often while malpractice continues perhaps it would be easier for campaigners to hold it to account."

At the fringe meeting on 25 September Nestlé will expound on its action against forced labour, yet it is refusing to attend a public meeting in the United States to explain its lack of action to end child slavery in its cocoa supply chain. The International Labour Rights Fund has brought legal action against Nestlé for failing to implement the Horkins-Engel protocol, introduced over 5 years ago after child slavery came to light in Ivory Coast, the source of about half the world's cocoa (click here for an interview with ILRF). The industry's defence is to argue that child slavery is not a crime against humanity and the US law being used does not apply. While the industry claims the situation in Ivory Coast is difficult, the Fairtrade Labelling Organisation has successfully certified a cooperative with 8,000 farmers as complying with its criteria, including ensuring children are in school, but the transnational corporations are refusing to support the Fairtrade scheme in Ivory Coast. Baby Milk Action argued last year that the much-trumpeted launch of a Nestlé Fairtrade coffee was more to do with Public Relations than a signal it was changing the exploitative way in which it treats suppliers (click here).

Nestlé refused to participate in a public tribunal into trade union busting in Colombia organised by Swiss faith, trade union and political organisations in October 2005 (click here).

In November 2000 Nestlé refused to attend a public hearing organised by the European Parliament (click here).

In the past Nestlé refused to speak in public if Baby Milk Action was present, but since 2001 has participated in, and lost, a series of public debates at universities and schools on its baby food marketing, which has served to fuel the boycott. Nestlé changed its policy on debating after students refused to give it a platform to recruit graduates. Baby Milk Action is now pushing Nestlé to attend an in-depth independent, expert tribunal to cover the issues that can only be touched on in the debates, but it has refused to even discuss its terms and conditions for taking part. In the meantime it seeks out organisations willing to give it a platform from which it can claim its marketing malpractice is a thing of the past.

While Nestlé opens its cheque book to gain a platform at the Labour Party Conference, Baby Milk Action struggles to continue operating. Please visit our on-line Virtual Shop to become a member, send a donation or purchase merchandise to spread the word and support our work.

GMB calls for international solidarity

Today, the GMB told the York press they would resist job losses at the Nestlé Rowntree factory in York, just announced, stating: "GMB will now seek the support of elected representatives locally, nationally and in the EU and will seek the support of our international trade union colleagues to resist this latest piece of playing corporate chess with our member's livelihoods. In particular, GMB will seek to invoke the agreement with our international IUF trade union colleagues in Nestlé to prevent job losses."

Mike Brady, Campaigns and Networking Coordinator at Baby Milk Action, said:

"In the past unions representing Nestlé workers have acted to promote the company's interest to try to undermine the boycott, but, as we have always warned, their jobs are at far greater risk from Nestlé's business practices. Our thoughts are with those workers who are being dumped by Nestlé in York, just as they are with those involved in a five-year strike in the Philippines and those forced to resign in Colombia. This company has to be looked at a little more holistically. It puts its own profits first in pushing its baby foods in violation of international standards, just as it puts its own profits first in its lack of loyalty to its workforce."

Notes for editors

  1. Nestlé is the target of the boycott as independent monitoring finds it is responsible for more violations the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and subsequent, relevant Resolutions than any other company.

  2. Baby Milk Action is a not-for-profit organisation and the UK member of the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN). It is funded by membership fees, merchandise sales and donations, along with grants from development organisations and charitable trusts.

  3. The boycott of Nestlé focuses on Nescafé, its flagship product, but Baby Milk Action lists the brands from which Nestlé profits so boycott supporters can avoid them all. Guardian reported on 1 September 2005: "What do Nike, Coca Cola, McDonald's and Nestlé have in common? Apart from being among the world's most well-known brands, they happen to be the most boycotted brands on the planet. That finding came from this week's global GMIPoll, an online opinion poll that surveyed 15,500 consumers in 17 countries. Nestlé emerges as the most the most boycotted brand in the UK because of what respondents consider its "unethical use and promotion of formula feed for babies in third world countries."

  4. Nestlé won a global internet poll for the world's 'least responsible company' coinciding with the World Economic Forum in Davos in January 2005. Nestlé received 29% of the votes. This was more than twice that of joint second Monsanto and Dow Chemicals (of Bhopal infamy), each on 14% ( click here for details ).

  5. For information on baby food marketing malpractice see the codewatch and boycott sections of this website. The Corporate Watch website has a detailed report on Nestlé.

  6. According to the World Health Organisation, 1.5 million infants die around the world every year because they are not breastfed. See the Your Questions Answered section.

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