Indian Workers Battle Nestlé

205 workers at Nestlé India’s Samalkha factory in Haryana state went on strike 4-5 July to protest the suspension of their union chairman Bijender Singh Gahlan for organizing non-disruptive protest actions including wearing black armbands and boycotting voluntary social functions. The union was demanding wage adjustments to compensate for the soaring cost of foods, including Nestlé’s own products.

The Nestlé Employee union at the Moga factory in Punjab state organized solidarity for the Samalkha union by boycotting the canteen and demonstrating outside the factory gates. Coordinated action among local unions at Nestlé India is a relatively new phenomenon.

Like other global food and drink companies, Nestlé is looking to rapid growth in its already profitable operations in India, China, Russia and other large emerging markets to offset stagnating markets and profit margins in Western Europe, Japan and the USA. Nestlé workers organizing and fighting for their rights in emerging markets threaten the company’s global strategy.This is the context in which Nestlé has systematically tried to quash union rights.

Update: On 21 July the striking workers at Nestlé Samalkha suspended their strike for six weeks pending an investigation by the State Labor Commissioner into the suspension of the union chairman, and the results of a tripartite inquiry into their claim for wage adjusments for inflation. The company agreed to pay wages for the last eight days of the strike.

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