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Uniting Food, Farm and Hotel Workers World-Wide


Nestlé stands accused of rights violations in connection with possible sell-off in Korea

Posted to the IUF website 24-Mar-2009

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Violating OECD Guidelines! Nestlé, open negotiations in good faith!

Since late February 2009, the Nestlé Korea Labour Union (NKLU), has been seeking the truth behind the rumour that their factory in Cheongju is to be sold to the South Korea-based Pulmuone Co. In response to the union's legitimate concerns, management simply denied that there was any truth to these rumours and refused to discuss the matter further.

On 3 March, the story of a secret deal to sell Nestlé Korea to Pulmuone began appearing in the Korean media. The NKLU again made several urgent requests to Nestlé Korea management for information - this time in the form of protest action at Nestlé Korea headquarters in Seoul - but management continued to deny having any knowledge of the deal.


NKLU members protest in Seoul

The IUF wrote to Nestlé corporate management, pointing out that while the company may react with silence or with the standard "we do not respond to rumours" when dealing with the media, it has the duty to respond with openness and respect when approached by their employees and their union. The IUF reminded Nestlé that the refusal to provide the union with the information they seek and the failure to give reasonable notice of changes in operations constitutes a violation of principles set out in the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. Furthermore, Nestlé's own Corporate Business Principles speaks of the principle of "staff relations based on trust, integrity and honesty".

What followed was an admission that there was truth to the media reports but continued refusal to provide details and to enter into negotiations with the union over the implications for the workforce. This lead to growing frustration and anger among the union's 300 members.

The NKLU has formed a 50-member strike committee and launched mass membership meetings, daily protest actions at the Nestle factory and protests at the headquarters of Nestle Korea in Seoul.


Mass membership meeting at the factory

The IUF filed a complaint against Nestlé on 19 March under the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, citing the refusal to provide information and the failure to provide reasonable notice of changes in their operations which would have major effects upon the livelihood of their employees (Art. IV 6) as breaches of the Guidelines.

This is not the first time Nestlé Korea management faces a complaint under the OECD Guidelines. In 2003 a bitter conflict over negotiating rights led to a 145-day strike and lockout. Nestlé management threatened to shift production out of the country in blatant violation of the OECD Guidelines. > Click here for the full story.

Zero Information, Zero Trust