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Nestl� Russia tells workers, 'We don't negotiate wages!'�and asks, 'Do you trust President Putin?'

Posted to the IUF website 12-Feb-2008

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Management at Nestl� Russia's chocolate factory in Perm has been steadily escalating pressure against the IUF-affiliated Nestl� Workers Perm Union, which has been seeking since August last year to negotiate a wage increase through the collective bargaining process. Workers' purchasing power has been drastically eroded through the rampant inflation of basic necessities, and it is widespread practice for workers at the plant to sell blood in order to supplement their income.

In response to union requests for wage negotiations, plant management and Nestl� Russia Human Resources management have repeatedly contended that it is company policy to exclude wages from any form of collective bargaining. While the union continued to call for negotiations, management in mid-November unilaterally decreed a 15% wage increase to take effect on January 1 � a move intended to underscore the company's rejection of collective bargaining as well as undermine support for the union. Despite this move, a workers' conference convened in early December voted overwhelmingly in support of the unions' demands.

As a result of legal mechanisms which have come into play consequent to its failure to respond to the union's call for wage negotiations, Nestl� was forced into participation in a Conciliation Commission, where it has shown no willingness to compromise in order to resolve the conflict. In line with its hostility to bargaining, management has consistently refused to respond to union requests to release basic information concerning wage scales or even the number of workers in each wage category!

Anti-union pressure intensified on December 21, when the union office and Chairperson were cut off from all communication through the company's e-mail and intranet system in retaliation (a "corrective measure" according to Nestl�) for having informed members by e-mail of a planned informational picket. Following the successful December 25 picket, workers were threatened with dismissals and production transfers if they continued to support the union's demand for good faith negotiations.

Pressure on the union and its members intensified with the January 23 distribution by management of a "sociological survey" questioning plant workers about their political views, readiness to participate in protest actions, and confidence in trade unions and political parties and institutions. The questionnaire included such questions as "Do you trust President Putin?", "Which party did you vote for in the last election?", "Do you or don't you trust trade unions?", and "What is Vladimir Putin's most important achievement as President of the Russian Federation in this last period?" The survey distribution was halted following protests from the union and the IUF, but Nestl� has never provided an explanation of this sinister incident.

The situation remains deadlocked through the company's rejection of genuine collective bargaining negotiations. The resulting failure of the official Conciliation Commission, which was formally recognized on February 7 through a 'Protocol of Disagreement' simply throws the stalemate into a lengthy bureaucratic process through which Nestl� can continue to reject its obligations as an employer to enter into constructive collective bargaining negotiations with the union while continuing its anti-union campaign.

On February 11, the IUF officially filed a submission over Nestl�'s practices with the OECD's National Contact Point in the company's home country of Switzerland. The OECD guidelines, whose provisions and implementation procedures have been accepted by all OECD and other adhering governments, set out clear standards governing the relationship between foreign direct investment by multinational companies and the social, political and human rights context in which they operate. Nestl�'s practices in Perm flagrantly violate key provisions of the Guidelines concerning human rights and labour standards and must not be allowed to continue.

To read the IUF submission click here.