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Nestlé Profits from Tropical Storm in Dominican Republic to Replace Permanent Workers with Temps

Posted to the IUF website 22-Nov-2007

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While Nestlé CEO Peter Brabeck was extolling the company's corporate social responsibility record in developing countries before an audience at the ILO in Geneva (> see report), Nestlé management in the Dominican Republic was offering up their own interpretation of how to "create shared value" in communities in which the company operates.

Tropical storm Noel pounded across the Dominican Republic and Haiti in late October, causing mudslides and flash flooding, leaving thousands homeless and affecting hundreds of thousands more. With the devastating consequences of the passage of the storm still palpable, and the process of recovery and rebuilding only just begun, Nestlé has added to the suffering of eleven victims of the storm's devastation by firing them from their jobs at the ice cream factory in Santo Domingo.

On 14 November, while the human resources manager was handing out dismissal letters to eleven long-serving employees, the plant manager was meeting with the union leadership, explaining to them that the dismissals were necessary because of a drop in production, that temporary workers would be hired in their place and indicating that further reductions in the number of permanent workers would be implemented throughout Nestlé in the Dominican Republic.

The Nestlé unions in the Dominican Republic have denounced Nestlé and condemned these dismissals - which in addition to being insensitive and objectionable, violate provisions in the collective agreement calling for prior consultation with the union - in the strongest of terms. About 100 union members from the three Nestlé plants in the country - joined by union members from other companies, including Unilever - picketed in front of the ice cream factory on 16 November, calling for the dismissals to be revoked. On 19 November, a delegation from the Nestlé unions requested intervention from the Labour Ministry and union representatives met to draw up a plan of action. A press conference was held the following day, where Nestlé's insensitivity and brazen disrespect was highlighted. Amongst other planned actions, the walls of the three Nestlé factories will be covered in black in a sign of mourning and a demonstration will be held in front of Nestlé headquarters in Santo Domingo.

These dismissals - which the workers have not accepted despite financial inducements - come on top of a wave of dismissals in January which followed an 80% increase in production. At that time, 45 permanent workers were replaced by subcontracted workers with lower wages, no overtime pay and no contributions to state social security. It appears that the destruction wrought by Noel has only encouraged Nestlé to maintain its strategy of growing by destroying decent employment in the Dominican Republic.