150 years of Swiss-Philippine Relations: Nestlé workers protest against injustice

Nestlé workers and the rest of the Filipino workers have nothing to celebrate this year marking the 150 years of diplomatic relations between Switzerland and the Philippines.

While Swiss diplomats cite Nestlé as example of its commitment to the development of Philippine economy, the 10-year strike in Nestlé Philippines Cabuyao in Laguna tells otherwise.  The Swiss multinational company continuously deprive its workers their rightful political and economic demands since 2002.

Following a strike in 1989, a Supreme Court decision in 1991 ruled the Retirement Benefits of Nestlé employees a legitimate bargaining issue.  However, at the onset of ground rules negotiations for a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) in 2001, Nestlé management refused to include the Retirement Benefits as an item to be discussed in the negotiations. Nestlé management definitely shrugged off the 1991 Supreme Court decision.

It was in defense of the high court’s decision that the Union of Filipro Employees (UFE-DFA-KMU) grounded the legal and moral legitimacy to launch another strike on January 14, 2002. Not excluding the killing of union president Diosdado Fortuna on September 22, 2005, the strike notably suffered violent rounds of dispersals from the hands of company guards, hired goons, the police, and military.

In 2007, the Supreme Court issued another order reaffirming its 1991 decision on the Nestlé labor dispute.

The Nestlé workers, in the course of their strike never failed to call the attention of the Swiss government thru its embassy in Manila in the hope that their demands be heeded.  However, just like Nestlé, the Swiss authorities rebuffed to move an inch for the Filipino workers.

Nestlé’s defiance on Supreme Court rulings and its persistence to employ repression brought about the worse economic conditions to the 600 workers and their families.  Contrary to what the Swiss authorities say, Nestlé did not contribute to the development of the Philippine economy.  While it fails to abide by its so-called corporate social responsibility, Nestlé is solely interested itself in gaining profit, blatantly turning its back on workers’ demands, even in the face of the law. More importantly, the Swiss multinational company blemished and marred Swiss-Philippine relations.

As the representative of their government to the Philippines, the Swiss Embassy is responsible for all Swiss companies based in the country. Unfortunately, it is only interested in its economic and political gains in its expansion in the Southeast Asian part of the globe.

The Swiss Embassy, in connivance with the Philippine government, has deceitfully paraded positive consequences of its prolonged stay in the country.  But in reality, it has caused nothing but suffering for the Filipino people through Swiss multinational companies that exploit Filipino workers in exchange of profit.  There is definitely nothing worth celebrating with 150 years of exploitation.

Since the official launching of the Swiss-Philippine diplomatic relations in 1848, a growth in the relationship’s ‘scope and depth’ brought economic, business, political, cultural, and social exchanges.  A total of 60 companies from Switzerland have so far invested in the country.  Nestle is one of the longest standing Swiss multinational companies in the Philippines, which is on its 100th year to date.###

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