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Uniting Food, Farm and Hotel Workers World-Wide

Nestl�'s arrogance shocks Irish labour court

Posted to the IUF website 28-Dec-2006

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The highly unprincipled and legally dubious "Nestl� Way" of restructuring the Irish sales force has provoked the wrath of the Irish Labour Court.

On 22 September, Nestl� announced that because of a need to restructure the Irish sales operation, the sales representatives were being made compulsorily redundant.

The 11 affected workers and their union, SIPTU, refused to discuss redundancy but demanded instead to discuss job retention. In response, Nestl� offered the option of interviewing for the proposed new positions, which would come with a 50% pay cut. Later, Nestl� upped the offer to 75% of previous wages for successful candidates. The union indicated that this was unacceptable and Nestl� returned to its original position of compulsory redundancy.

Nestl�'s refusal to co-operate in mediation talks on 10 November prompted the Labour Relations Commissioner to issue the company a strong admonishment and to refer the case to a full Labour Court hearing.

Then, on 6 December, Nestl� flouted the Labour Commissioner's warning not to take any action which would pre-empt the outcome of the hearing by issuing the sales representatives with termination notices and banning them from the premises with immediate effect.

At the hearing on 15 December, the company was severely reprimanded by the Labour Court and by the chief judge in particular, who said that both she and the Court were appalled by the behaviour of the company and by the breaches of procedure. The chief judge ordered the company to lift the notices of termination with immediate effect and return to the Labour Relations Commission and begin meaningful negotiations with the union side. As an additional slap in the face, the Court mandated a professional negotiator from the Irish employers association, IBEC, to represent the company.

It was a good day in court for the 11 workers and their union. But their battle is not over. They are fighting the "Nestl� Way" of restructuring, which involves the removal of long-standing, experienced - and loyal - staff in order to bring in new hires, willing to work for lower wages and apt to be exploited; the Nestl� Way of restructuring which amounts to bribery in the form of pay-offs to workers to induce them to leave. This is, sadly, what the workers are expecting to happen once they meet Nestl� in court-ordered bargaining.