Nestlé denies link to Colombian anti-union violence as murder probe begins

By Mark ASTLEY contact

- Last updated on GMT

The murder followed death threats relating to a hunger strike by trade union members at Nestlé's Colombia's Bugalagrande processing plant.
The murder followed death threats relating to a hunger strike by trade union members at Nestlé's Colombia's Bugalagrande processing plant.

Related tags: Trade union

Nestlé has rubbished suggestions by a Colombian trade union that it has been complicit in "acts of violence" against striking workers, following the murder of an employee from its Bugalagrande condensed milk plant.

In a statement sent to DairyReporter.com, Swiss food and beverage giant, Nestlé, slammed attempts by Sinaltrainal, a Colombian trade union, to link it to “acts of violence or even death of former workers" ​following the death of a Nestlé employee in the midst of a hunger strike by fellow workers.

Oscar Lopez Trivino, who worked for Nestlé in Colombia for 25 years, died after being shot four times, allegedly by a local right-wing paramilitary group, on 9 November.

While he had not participated in the hunger strike, union member Trivino had been involved in the long standing dispute between Sinaltrainal and Nestlé, according to reports from Colombia. 

“The allegations

Nestlé Colombia employee, Oscar Lopez Trivino, was shot four times. (Image: Sinaltrainal)

 and insinuations of Sinaltrainal, which seek to link the company to acts of violence or even death of former workers are groundless and unacceptable, and have been systematically dismissed by both the Colombian and the international justice system,”​ said a statement sent to DairyReporter.com.

“We do not want to speculate about the reason for this murder which is now being investigated by the authorities," ​it added.

Death threats

Four Sinaltrainal members from the Bugalagrande plant, which manufactures La Lechera sweetened condensed milk alongside Nescafé, Milo and Maggi brand products, began their hunger strike on 5 November in response to the “failure of conventional agreements and for disrespecting the dignity of workers” ​by Nestlé.

On 9 November, a few days into the strike, Sinaltrainal revealed that threatening text messages, allegedly from paramilitary group Los Urabenos, had been sent to two union leaders from the plant. Later that day, Trivino was shot dead. The hunger strike ended a few days later on 12 November.

The message, as translated by Amnesty Internationa​l, threatened “no more forgiveness”​ for those that “continue to mess with Nestlé.”

“…death to all communists of Sinaltrainal Urabenos,”​ the translated message continued.

According to Amnesty International, more than 20 members of Sinaltrainal have been killed since its creation in 1982, including 13 that had worked for Nestlé. In response to this month’s incident, it urged Nestlé to “cooperate fully with criminal investigations into the latest killing and threats.”

Despite the murder, the hunger strike continued until 12 November. (Image: Sinaltrainal)

Reject violence and intimidation

“We have expressed our deepest condolences and solidarity to Mr Lopez Trivino’s wife, family, friends, and to his union, Sinaltrainal,”​ Nestlé’s statement continued.

“Unfortunately violence has been widespread in Colombia in the past years; affecting trade union leaders, members of our local management team, other employees and their relatives. We emphatically reject any form of violence or intimidation against any employee of our company.”​The company added that it “recognizes the freedom of association and guarantees the right of protest.”

“We have asked for a speedy investigation into this matter, in addition to providing loans to all the workers concerned, to reinforce security in their homes,” ​the company added.

Related topics: Business

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