Dialogue Alliance Sud-Nestlé on Colombia

Nestle's factory in Bugalagrande,
Colombia. (Photo:
Michel Egger/Alliance Sud)

Source: Alliance Sud.

For five years, non governmental organisation Alliance Sud and swiss food multinational Nestlé have been engaged in a high-level dialogue which is innovative in more than one respect. Alliance Sud, focal point of Social Watch in Switzerland, has led two fact-finding missions into Nestlé’s operations in Colombia. These have produced concrete improvements, although the basic conflict between the multinational and trade unions remains.

In late October 2005, watchdog organisation Multiwatch – with which Alliance Sud is affiliated – put Nestlé “on trial” in Berne. The multinational tried unsuccessfully to impede the event. Its interventions resulted in a dialogue with Alliance Sud which started in spring 2006 under the seal of confidentiality. The parties decided to examine the case of Colombia, reported Michel Egger, responsible for International Trade Policy at Alliance Sud. 

Alliance Sud carried out an initial fact-finding mission, at its own expense, in April 2008. It discovered a complex situation where the legacy of the past weighed heavily on relations between Nestlé and its main Colombian trade union, Sinaltrainal. Its findings drew a conflicting picture of Nestlé, with both good and bad aspects. The organisation drew up a list of around 40 proposed remedial measures, of which a little over half were accepted by the multinational.

In June 2010, Alliance Sud made a follow-up trip to Colombia. Although certain problems remain, Nestlé seems more open and has implemented most of the recommendations. This positive development was recognised by most interlocutors, with the exception of Sinaltrainal. A fundamental atmosphere of distrust exists between Nestlé and the union, leading to almost unmanageable confrontations. 

Alliance Sud, which is drawing up a fresh set of recommendations, believes that mediation is essential. Nestlé Colombia must also show how it intends to combine ambitious economic targets with greater social and community responsibility.

This is the first time that Nestlé has engaged in such an in-depth dialogue with an NGO. The dialogue has resulted in real improvements on the ground and a change in attitude on Nestlé’s part. It has also enabled the development of an innovative approach and has shed light on the cultural and psychological aspects of the conflict between a multinational and a trade union.

This dossier presents a summary of the main outcomes of the dialogue. Nestlé has taken the report into consideration and accepted most of its recommendations.

More information
Report in English: http://bit.ly/qUoOVG
Report in Spanish: http://bit.ly/qYeNuf
Report in French: http://bit.ly/qdJ4DI