The Guardian 19 October, 2005

Nestlé Philippines
union leader murdered

The Drug and Food Employees Alliance union leader, Diosdado Fortuna, was assassinated two weeks ago outside the Nestlé plant in Laguna. Mr Fortuna was gunned down outside the Swiss dairy giant’s factory in the middle of a long-running strike over the company’s refusal to negotiate a collective agreement.

In a statement, his widow said: "My husband had no other enemy except Nestlé management".

Diosdado Fortuna was elected leader of the union at Laguna after his predecessor, Meliton Roxas, was shot dead outside the plant, during a strike 17 years ago.

Mr Fortuna was shot dead by unidentified gunmen on his way home from a picket line at the Nestlé factory.

The IUF (the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Association) is spearheading a global protest campaign, calling on the Philippines Government to investigate the killing and bring the murderers to justice. International website, Labourstart, is backing the protest and urging supporters to send protests to the Philippines Government and/or Nestlé.

The IUF has called on the government of the Philippines to undertake a full investigation into the murder. The union, which is not affiliated to the IUF, has been on strike since January 2002 in a dispute over bringing retirement benefits within the collective bargaining process, which Nestlé management rejects.

The National Labor Relations Commission, the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court of the Philippines have all affirmed, however, that unions have a right to negotiate retirement benefits for inclusion in a collective bargaining agreement. The factory has been operating with "permanent replacements" since management declared a lockout.

The IUF has written to the President and Secretary of Labor of the Philippines to condemn this murder and demand a rapid and transparent investigation into the crime. The IUF-affiliated Council of Filipino Nestlé Unions has written to Nestlé corporate management in Switzerland to remind the company that the dispute is "about Nestlé workers in the Philippines seeking to negotiate, through the collective bargaining process, something which Nestlé workers around the world consider a basic right: their retirement benefits. Can Nestlé, a company which adheres to the UN Global Compact, in good conscience deny this right to its workers in the Philippines?"

The IUF has also communicated its concerns to Nestlé, urging the company to act to resolve the long-running conflict.

The government of the Phil­ippines must act now to investigate this crime and bring the perpetrators to justice, says the IUF. Failure to do so would encourage further physical attacks against workers and their unions in a country where anti-union violence is not an uncommon occurrence.

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