With Carlos Velastegui

Nestlé breaches collective bargaining agreement and lays off a worker in the middle of the pandemic

Carlos Velastegui, general secretary of the Labor Committee of Nestlé Ecuador Workers, an IUF affiliate, spoke with La Rel about the irresponsible way the transnational corporation has behaved in that country, where it has been negligent in the application of safety protocols and has further failed to comply with the collective bargaining agreement in the midst of an unprecedented global crisis.
Foto: Gerardo Iglesias | Rel UITA

-What problems are workers in Nestlé Ecuador facing?
-When the first worker in the company tested positive for Covid-19, the Labor Committee requested that the company provide face masks and gel sanitizers to try to minimize contagion, and the company responded by saying that wearing face masks was counterproductive.

They were so insistent on this that they had the manager of the doctors of all the Nestlé plants in Ecuador call me to tell me that.

As everyone knows, Ecuador has been hit hard by the pandemic since mid March and the factories and their workers have not been spared from the impact.

We had a lot of fellow workers with symptoms and the company was slow to act after the first case was detected. This resulted in the virus spreading, to the point that even our unit doctor in Guayaquil got sick.

This doctor in turn spread the virus to her family, which led to her husband dying from COVID-19. If that weren’t bad enough, a few days before she was due to return to work from her bereavement leave, she got a call from the company informing her that they were terminating her contract.


-What actions did you take as a union?
-When she receives that call she tells the caller that she’s a member of the Labor Committee so he shouldn’t be calling her; he needs to go through the Labor Committee’s general secretary.

For my part, I contact management to notify them that the doctor is covered by the collective bargaining agreement and that, therefore, the worker-employer protocol must apply.

The company, however, takes the termination of the doctor’s contract as something final and starts making a number of changes in what was her office.

So we call a worker-employer meeting to discuss this layoff, as well as irregularities in the deductions for purchases made by the workers in the company.

All of this was the last straw. So we filed a request with the Ministry of Labor for the immediate reinstatement of this worker on the grounds that it is an illegal dismissal and in breach of the collective bargaining agreement.

-How long had the doctor been working in the factory?
-She had been with Nestlé for 25 years. She’d only recently joined the Committee. We’re talking about an outstanding professional and an excellent person.

-Sounds like bullying on Nestlé’s part…
-Definitely. Especially considering it didn’t even agree to test its workers for COVID-19 claiming it lacked the resources for it.

Meanwhile, we’re all still working without any protection, left to our own devices.