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Nestl� Pakistan: Unions Roll Back 'De-unionization' Drive, Double Membership

Posted to the IUF website 17-Jul-2006

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A key tactic in Nestl� management�s systematic �de-unionization� drive in the Asia-Pacific region, alongside systematic outsourcing and casualization of employment, has been the artificial promotion of workers into supervisory jobs that are classified as managerial positions and thereby excluded from union membership. As a consequence of these bogus "promotions", together with forced early retirement and replacement of early retirees with precarious workers, union membership has declined dramatically in some plants.

The Employees Union Nestle Pakistan at the Sheikhupura plant has successfully beaten back this challenge through strategic organizing and bargaining. Under a three-tier structure (managerial, supervisory and production line) there were only 140 production line workers registered as union members, and 250 workers in supervisory positions that were excluded from union membership. The union successfully forced the reduction to only two categories: management staff and non-management staff, and secured the right of union membership for the 250 supervisory workers. The union then negotiated, on the basis of the existing CBA (signed in early 2004), benefits and conditions to apply to all 390 union members.

As the yoghurt and bottled water plants expanded in 2004 and 2005, adding an additional 200 regular jobs, the union acted to ensure these workers were entitled to union membership. The union now has 591 dues-paying members.

A similar victory was won by the Employees Union Nestle Pakistan in Kabirwala, where there were only 40 union members at the time a new CBA was signed in March 2005. In the following month the union succeeded in winning the right of 39 supervisors to join the union, doubling its membership and extending all CBA provisions and benefits to these new members. The union increased the number of office bearers from 8 to 10, and two supervisors were elected to the union's Executive Committee.

Following recruitment of newly hired workers into the union in 2005-6, union membership has now reached 113 members. Both the Sheikhupura and Kabirwala Nestle Unions are members of the National Federation of Food, Beverages and Tobacco Workers, which is in the process of registering with the National Industrial Relations Commission (NIRC) and upon registration will apply for affiliation to the IUF.