By Hector Pascua, ABS-CBN Europe News Bureau
Filipino and Austrian members of Philippine Solidarity and Friendship Group (PSFG) held a picket in front of Nestlé company in Austria to express their solidarity to Filipino workers still fighting for their retirement plan benefits in the Nestlé’s branch in the Philippines.
PSFG members conducted the two-hour demonstration to show their support to Filipino Nestlé workers in Cabuyao in Laguna province.
The protest organizers told ABS-CBN Europe News Bureau that Nestlé, a giant transnational food company, allegedly continue to refuse to consider the Retirement Plan Benefits as one of the items for improvement in the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) negotiations sometime in 2001.
“In 1987, the Nestlé workers in Cabuyao launched a strike with retirement benefits as the main subject of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). The workers won after a two-year strike and the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) ruled in 1989 that a worker retirement plan was indeed a collective bargaining issue,” said Manny Sarmiento, a Filipino leader of the group Pinas First.
Sarmiento added that the decision was later ruled as correct by the Supreme Court in 1991.
“In 2001, Nestlé Philippines refused the workers demand for negotiations on the CBA unless the Retirement Plan was excluded in the agreement,” Sarmiento said.
Austrian activist and PSFG member Erwin Ott explained that the group is very much supportive to the cause of the workers in Nestlé Cabuyao since the management as well as the Philippine government have yet to take action to alleviate the rights of the workers.
“Since 2002 until the now, the Worker’s Union launched an arduous strike on the Nestlé Cayubao plant. While DOLE (Department of Labor and Employment) and Nestlé have pushed forward with numerous tactics to subdue the striking workers, ranging from the issuing of return to work orders to the forceful confrontation with hired Nestlé goons, the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the workers have defied them all and stood firm on the justness of their demands and that that Supreme Court's ruling that the retirement benefit is a legitimate CBA matter,” Ott said.
Sarmiento contended that 23 workers have already died since the start of the strike. The most atrocious was the murder of union president Diosdado “Ka Fort” Fortuna last September 22, 2005, day after the declaration of the Calibrated Preemptive Response (CPR) by Philippine President Arroyo. Fortuna was the predecessor of Meliton Roxas, the first union president murdered during the height of struggle for justice against Nestlé.
PSFG also launched a petition letter (http://pinas-first.com/) addressed to Nestlé Philippines and its main office in Switzerland, to the International Labor Organization, the Philippine labor department, and to the International Commission on Human Rights, demanding Nestlé management abide by the International Labor Organization’s Convention No.98 to collectively bargain, especially the right to negotiate for their retirement benefits and to stop other forms of repression against the striking workers.