..”At Nestlé, we are determined to keep violations out of the value chains we control and to foster systems that can help keep them out of those we do not.” – Nestle Global website 

The Center of Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR) appreciates and counts on the human rights commitment made by Nestle Global in its entire operations. However, on September 30, the union federation Drug and Food Alliance (DFA-KMU) and the local union Wyeth Philippines Progressive Workers Union (WPPWU) reported that the Wyeth Nutrition Philippines management – owned by Nestle – called for a team building activity. At the site, the management immediately announced the retrenchment of at least 21 workers, one is a union officer, in the Warehouse and Quality Assurance Division and asked for their signatures. The management said that it’s part of redundancy measures. Caught in disbelief, the workers who spent 10-20 years of their lives nourishing the company, saw it grow, even braving the COVID 19 infections at work, felt betrayed.

“The timing and justification of this act of Wyeth Nutrition management is highly suspicious and bodes ill of the human rights commitment of its parent company — Nestle SA. Why call for a team building only to retrench the workers? Is this how Wyeth Nutrition repays its workers? During this pandemic, Wyeth Nutrition workers are part of the essential workforce, sustaining the nut of would be mothers and children. In August, one of the workers even died of COVID 19,” said Daisy Arago, CTUHR Executive Director. 

With highly suspicious timing and justification it is apparent that the management is complicit to what the workers are experiencing from NTF-ELCAC. It can be recalled that the WPPU has been under attack since November 2020. Elements of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) have been reportedly visiting the homes of union officers and members and harassing them to disaffiliate from their union federation Drug and Food Alliance-Kilusang Mayo Uno (DFA-KMU). The attacks heightened and peaked this April to September.

The Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR) condemns the illegal termination of at least 21 rank and file workers of Wyeth Philippines and their immediate barring from work. CTUHR asserts that both the actions of the NTF-ELCAC and the Wyeth Nutrition management are illegal and cruel. “We cannot help but question who benefits from these attacks against the union,” said CTUHR.

The WPPU is preparing for the next CBA in 2022 and for the last 30 years it had had worked hard to improve the workers’  wages and benefits., The union decried that this act is traitorous and a clear violation of their existing Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA)

In  a dialogue regarding this, Wyeth Nutrition management, DOLE and Cong. Sarah Elago of Kabataan Partylist and union representatives,  the  management assured that they are concerned for the welfare of the workers and that they will not intervene with union affairs.

The union is set to hold a dialogue with the management today, October 4, after they manifested a strong opposition against this act. DFA-KMU also called on the workers and supporters to show their support for the illegally retrenched unionists by wearing red armbands and holding a social media protes.

Wyeth Nutrition is a 106-year-old leading global brand that produces milk products under the brands Promil, Promil Gold, MamaPro. In 2012, it was acquired by Nestle SA. In the website of Nestle, it boasts of its commitment to respect human rights, “Human rights are non-negotiable across our supply chains. We are dedicated to upholding these for everyone who works for and with us..”

Despite this claim of their strong commitment to human rights, Nestle has a long history of labor rights violations, not only in the Philippines but also in other countries where it operates. In 2005. Diosadado Fortuna, Nestle workers union president was extrajudicially killed in Cabuyao, Laguna during a workers’ strike over retirement pay. 

The illegally retrenched workers must be reinstated, and the company must be held accountable for their actions. We also urge Nestle to make good on its commitment by upholding the job security, freedom of association and protection of Wyeth Nutrition workers. #