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Uniting Food, Farm and Hotel Workers World-Wide

Nestl� Hong Kong Workers Prepare for Industrial Action over Unfulfilled Commitments on Union Recognition, Precarious Contracts

Posted to the IUF website 20-Jan-2009

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Six months after a three-day strike brought production to a standstill at Nestl� Hong Kong�s ice cream and chilled products factory, the IUF-affiliated Hong Kong Nestl� Workers Union is still waiting for the company to make good on its commitments: immediate recognition of the union, a halt to the termination of casual workers and an increase in the number of permanent workers.

In the aftermath of the July 2008 strike Nestl� management made a series of commitments to rectify its abusive labour practices. But management still obstinately refuses to recognize the union and has rejected calls to enter into formal negotiations - despite the fact that the Hong Kong Nestl� Workers Union is legally registered and represents 98 per cent of the drivers, loaders, sales and delivery workers in the ice cream and milk departments. Even after the union fulfilled several requests by management � including providing a full list of members � the company continues to deny workers their basic right to union recognition.

The strike won broad public support by successfully exposing outrageously exploitative working conditions, including 17-hour workdays. For over a decade, Nestl� management has been cultivating insecurity by maintaining a third of the workforce on revolving casual contracts. To deliberately bypass the legal requirement that a worker be made permanent after 12 months' employment, Nestl� has imposed a 14-day hiatus between each contract renewal. This precarious employment regime is designed to eliminate employment security and deny workers the rights, protection and benefits enjoyed by permanent workers under the law.

Last summer's strike shocked public opinion with stories of 17-hour workdays and deliberate abuses of temporary work contracts to generate permanent insecurity at Nestl� Hong Kong

Instead of ending these abusive employment practices - as agreed in July 2008 - Nestl� management has escalated the conflict by terminating casual workers before their contracts expire. Three contract workers who were members of the union and whose contracts had not yet expired were summarily terminated on December 31 2008. This was followed by the termination of another two contract workers on January 14.

Angered by these new attacks on casual workers and frustrated by the lack of any means of entering into formal negotiations, the union on January 19 repeated its call for the immediate recognition of the union, a halt to the termination of casual workers and an increase in the number of permanent workers. If management fails to meet these demands by the end of the week the union�s 200 members will vote to take industrial action - with the full support of the IUF and its worldwide membership.