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Nestlé Pakistan attempts to blackmail workers challenging precarious jobs regime into renouncing their rights

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'Give up your rights, now and forever!'


Management at Nestlé's dairy factory in Kabirwala, Pakistan has not only retaliated against the union struggle to change the employment status of hundreds of long-serving precarious workers to direct employment with dismissals, provocations, police charges against 80 workers, including the union president, and physical assault by the labour contractor and goons. The company has also attempted to blackmail workers into abandoning their legal claims to direct, permanent employment as a condition for again being allowed to work… on a precarious basis.

After the union assisted 199 contract workers in filing legal petitions for permanent employment in February this year, on May 7 another group of 58 workers sent grievance notices to Nestle management claiming their right to direct, permanent employment in accordance with the law. On May 13 they were terminated. On May 24 the 58 filed legal cases in the Labour Court. The court issued orders prohibiting management from firing them.

As it had done with the 199, Nestlé refused to accept the court order (factory human resources manager Sajid Mukhtar has twice been served with a contempt of court notice by the Punjab High Court for failing to observe these stay orders). Workers were harassed and pressured into withdrawing their cases and were allowed back to work. The remaining 53 continued to fight. Nestlé claims they were offered a chance to return to work and refused. Here's what really happened:

On September 19, Muhammad Ramzan, (the Ramzan of Ramzan & Sons who supply contract workers to Nestlé Kabirwala ) and his son Iqbal (whom we meet again here in a violent attack on a group of workers) met with the 53 and presented them with an "appointment letter" offering them casual work at Kabirwala on a no work, no pay basis on condition that they withdraw their legal cases and permanently renounce any legal claims on Nestlé.

Point 12 in this charter for permanent precariousness and loss of rights states (in Urdu) "You will not show yourself the employee of our client company Nestle nor will you demand any relation of employment with our client. After receiving this employment you will renounce any and claims, demands, actions, court proceedings, compensation, damages, recovery, cases and expenses from Nestle Pakistan, its officers and directors."

Rather than complying with the court orders enjoining the company from altering the workers' employment status (i.e. retaliatory dismissal), and letting the courts determine their legal employment status, Nestlé attempted to blackmail these workers into permanently renouncing their present and future rights.

In exchange for this, workers were generously offered 10-20 days' work per month at a daily rate which barely meets the legal minimum requirement calculated on the basis of a 26-day month.

And in exchanging for renouncing their rights, Nestlé and the contractor renounce all responsibility for the workers' health and safety on the job! Point 10 of the twelve point document states "You will be responsible for your safety and will follow the safety instructions."

The workers understandably rejected these terms - and are now being replaced by newly-appointed permanent workers, recruited from the ranks of those who did not support the contract workers' fight for justice and who have not joined the union.

Stop Nespressure - send a message to Nestlé! Click here to tell the world's largest food company to respect rights and stop punishing contract workers in Pakistan.

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