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Uniting Food, Farm and Hotel Workers World-Wide

Nestle Hong Kong strike success

Posted to the IUF website 29-Jul-2008

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A three-day strike by 200 workers at Nestle Hong Kong's ice cream and chilled products factory ended in victory today, as management finally agreed to workers' demands on wages and working conditions. The striking workers, including drivers, deliverymen, sales force workers and production workers joined the IUF-affiliated Catering & Hotels Industries Employees General union and launched industrial action on 27 July to demand a 12-hour limit on working hours, permanent employment for casual workers, a seven percent wage increase, and a six percent increase in commission (above-quota incentive pay).

Over the past 12 years earnings from commissions have been cut by 12 percent despite a significant increase in workload and working hours, which has now reached 17-hour workdays. On top of this management was constantly changing the formula for calculating commissions and refuses to disclose the new calculation, leaving workers unable determine what their commissions should be at the end of each month.

The strike brought production to a halt at the height of peak season and shocked the Hong Kong public by exposing the appalling working conditions in the world's largest food manufacturing company. This includes 17-hour workdays, wage increases over the past 12 years amounting to just one percent, and the systematic denial of permanent employment for casual workers despite working at the factory for more than 10 years.

For more than a decade a third of the workforce at Nestle Hong Kong have been employed under precarious employment practices that deliberately bypass the legal requirement that a worker be made permanent after employment of more than 12 months. Casual workers were placed on revolving 12 month contracts, and to prevent them from achieving permanent employment status under the law Nestle Hong Kong management imposed a 14-day break between each contract. As a result workers were robbed of any employment security and were deliberately denied the rights, protection and benefits enjoyed by permanent workers under the law.

At the request of the Catering & Hotels Industries Employees General Union, an affiliate of the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU), the IUF intervened to bring these abusive employment practices to the attention of Nestle global management and called for the management to enter into good faith negotiations with the union.

In the second round of negotiations on 29 July, the union succeeded in winning major improvements in wages and working conditions and reached a settlement that was supported by all 200 workers, who voted to end the strike action.

Please send a message of congratulations to the union in your own language by e-mail to the Catering & Hotels Industries Employees General Union (click here)