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Successful Strike at Nestlé Germany Wins Employment Guarantees, Defends Work Week

Posted to the IUF website 24-Sep-2004

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A one-week strike by the German Food and Allied Workers' Union at the Nestlé Maggi factory in Singen, Germany came to a successful close on September 24 when members voted overwhelmingly to approve a new collective agreement which meets all the union's key demands.

The union declared an indefinite strike when Nestlé demanded savings of 3.2 million Euros annually if it were to agree to union demands for an employment guarantee of 2-3 years. The bargaining committee identified some 1.5 million Euros in annual savings which could be achieved by negotiating revisions in paid time off based on seniority, annual bonuses and paid rest breaks. Negotiations reached a complete impasse when Nestlé's intransigent negotiators refused to compromise on management's demand for 3.2 million Euros in annual savings, including an extension of the work week through an additional unpaid hour.

Workers at the plant voted by 99.5 percent for strike action. With talks at a complete deadlock, plans were at an advanced stage for building an international trade union demonstration in support of the Singen workers at Nestlé headquarters in Vevey, Switzerland with the support of the IUF and the Swiss food workers union FCTA/VHTL. The IUF mobilized its Nestlé affiliates internationally to send support messages to the strikers, and informed affiliates in Nestlé Europe of the need to refuse additional production in the event that other factories were called upon to produce products from the struck Singen plant.

The new agreement guarantees all regular full time jobs at the Singen plant through January 2009, to be extended an additional year depending on output levels. The 37 hour week remains intact, a considerable achievement at a time when major German employers are demanding unpaid hours across a number of sectors. Retroactive to June 2004, employees receive a 2% wage increase. The union accepted reductions in the annual bonus payment formula, a phased reduction in break time totaling 20 minutes over the coming two years and slight modifications to payment for two annual holidays as the main elements of the compromise package.