Last week, Nestlé workers in Colombia began a hunger strike to force the multinational company to enter into discussions with the Sinaltrainal trade union. For several months , Nestlé has refused. Instead of seeking a solution to the conflict, Nestlé aggravates the situation by launching dangerous accusations against the union. On Saturday, November 9th 2013, a trade unionist was murdered.
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On Saturday, November 9 2013, Oscar López Triviño was assassinated by four gunshots . He had 25 years experience working in the Nestlé factory in Bugalagrande, Colombia. The day before, the Sinaltrainal union had received death threats through messages sent to their workers' mobile phones which read:
"Guerrilla sons of bitches, if you keep bothering Nestlé there will be no forgiveness. We're going to cut you into pieces. Death to the communist Sinaltrainal union." The threat is signed by the paramilitary group " Los Urabeños."
A few days before, four Sinaltrainal unionists began a hunger strike in front of Nestlé's Bugalagrande factory. Workers resorted to this form of protest due to a labor dispute that has long existed. Nestlé has cut off discussions unilaterally there for several months. In addition, the company has increased pressure to the Sinaltrainal union with actions such as pushing new workers to join SINTRAIMAGRA, a competitor union which is close to the upper management of the company. These measures aim to weaken Sinaltrainal and violate trade union rights.
Instead of seeking a solution to the conflict, the food multinational further aggravated the situation in the end of October with a statement signed by the chairman of Nestlé Colombia Andrés Manuel Kornprobst who unjustly accused Sinaltrainal of calling on its workers to commit acts of violence and sabotage. This kind of accusation, in the Colombian context, is very dangerous and has transformed the union into paramilitary targets. In the past, 14 Nestlé workers were killed, while others were victims of attacks or had to leave the area because of threats. With the murder of Oscar López, the number of trade unionists murdered by Nestlé now stands at 15.
After the start of the hunger strike last week, the MultiWatch human rights organization wrote an open letter to Paul Bulcke, CEO of Nestlé, demanding that Nestlé enters into discussions with Sinaltrainal immediately and take the necessary procedures to protect the lives and integrity of the threatened trade unionists and their families. The Swiss organization demands that Nestlé Colombia ceases to delegitimize and defame Sinaltrainal and that it fully complies with the agreement signed with the union. In addition, a group of 20 Swiss parliamentarians sent a letter to Mr. Bulcke, supporting MultiWatch's demands and requesting an urgent meeting with Nestlé.
In its response to MultiWatch, Nestlé did not respond to the urgent requests but limited itself to statements trying to give a good image of the company. In the past few days, Nestlé has blocked electronic protest letters sent to them, which are automatically returned to the sender.
MultiWatch strongly denounces Nestlé's behavior. The multinational company is responsible for ensuring that all it's factories respect trade union rights. If the head of a subsidiary makes statements that could endanger the lives of trade unionists, the parent company must intervene and ensure the safety and physical integrity of the workers and their families. We demand that Nestlé intervene immediately and find a mutually agreeable solution to this dispute. The parent company must distance itself from slander that endangers the lives of its workers. Nestlé must also ensure that there are no other threats, acts of violence or murders of trade unionists. It must stop anti-union measures against Sinaltrainal and comply with the agreement signed. It is also necessary that a full and independent investigation be carried out on threats made against workers and the murder of Oscar López Triviño.
MultiWatch, november 10th 2013