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Dominican Republic

   With Agueda Sosa

Nestlé is a monster,

and we lacked unity


Agueda Sosa was Secretary of Organization of the Nestlé Ice Cream Workers’ Union (SINTRANESTLED). She describes the closure of the Santo Domingo factory as a life-shattering catastrophe for her fellow workers, a shock that will be very difficult to overcome. Her union experience and commitment leads her to conclude that the country’s Nestlé unions should have been united. Agueda spoke at length with Sirel about what she’s gone through, and she reflected on the mass layoff.


-Why do you think they closed down this plant, and why did they do it in this way?

-It was an outrageous act against the working class, because we left the factory at 3 p.m. on a Wednesday, and everything was just fine; but when we went in at 5 a.m. the next day we found out that the plant had closed down. Before that day we had even been working overtime. They were getting ready and they filled up all the vessels in the chambers. They dealt us a deathblow.


Why didn’t they say anything before? Where are the ethics of this company? A company that has no qualms about firing all its workers in this way? Sick people, pregnant women, workers who were on their annual leave, mothers and fathers with families to support? It has been a deep psychological shock to us all, and we’re suffering the consequences of that situation. Some of our fellow workers are too old to find another job. That day there were officers from the Secret Police, ambulances, paramedics… and it was 5 in the morning! They had it all planned out. They treated us like thieves.

Where are the ethics of this company? A company that has no qualms about firing all its workers in this way? Sick people, pregnant women, workers who were on their annual leave, mothers and fathers with families to support?


-How many workers have they relocated?

-They told the government that they relocated 25 percent of the personnel, but that’s a lie. They only relocated the administrative staff, leaving out the working class. That really alarmed us. Nestlé is not interested in its workers, all it cares about is its products.


-Are there many of you who are depressed?

-Many, very depressed. We’ve gone to request medical attention, because they were supposed to continue paying our health insurance for six more months, but when we get to the hospital or the clinic, they won’t treat us because Nestlé is not paying our coverage anymore. That was another lie, just like it’s a lie that they’ve paid us six months of wages as compensation. The hiring of Ana Isabel as Human Resource Manager turned everything into chaos. She created a climate of tension and intimidation. At the meetings between management and the union, they would promise us a lot of things, but then they wouldn’t keep any of their promises.


-This manager surely had the full support of the company…

-She most certainly did, and I understand that this is the same policy that Nestlé has applied elsewhere, because it doesn’t maintain good relations with the working class. My experience in the union allowed me to realize that Nestlé was abusing its workers.

-How old are you?

-I’m 43 years old, and I’d been with the company for ten years. I was part of the union since it was created, and held several positions in it.


-Are you still meeting as a union?

-The union’s Governing Committee still meets. In fact, we’re having a meeting next Friday. We’re keeping in touch with all the workers, checking on them to see how they’re doing, trying to help them in whatever way we can, organizing in this new stage. Many of them have a father or mother to support, almost all of them have loans and credits to pay. It has been life shattering for all of us. And this isn’t something that you fix overnight. Almost all of us had been working for over ten years in the company. This has been very tough on us psychologically.


-Is there a rumor that the company is not closing down permanently?

-That’s the rumor that’s been going around, and we’re hearing it more and more every day. Apparently it plans to continue operating as a distributor. There are still a few people working there, truck drivers, but none of them are unionized. The idea would apparently be to import ice creams from the plants in Cuba or Puerto Rico. In the document that they presented to the union’s Governing Committee on the day they closed down the plant, however, it clearly says that Nestlé will be closing down its ice cream business in the country, that there won’t be any exported or imported ice cream. It practically says they’re going to dismantle the company. This was probably another of the lies they told us. They claim that they weren’t making enough profit, but I think that they wanted to break up the union, and that they also had very bad management. I don’t have any proof, but I do have testimonies that say that the administration was chaotic. They tried to cover their own inefficiency.

My experience in the union allowed me to realize how Nestlé was abusing its workers.


-How do you feel personally?

-Awful. I feel bad for me and for my fellow workers, with whom I worked for so many years, years in which we give it our all to make this company get ahead. And this is how it rewarded us. I wish you could’ve all been there when it happened, so you could see how we were treated. There are no words to describe what it feels like. To them we’re nothing, we have no feelings. It’s a day that none of us will be able to erase from our minds.


-What message would you like to give Nestlé workers around the world?

-I urge them, as a fellow worker, to open their eyes and realize that they work for a company that’s like a monster, because it instills fear in its workers. I call on all Nestlé workers to unite and form a single trade union, nationwide and also globally, to combat this monster. Only by uniting  will we have any chance of winning. I call on all Nestlé unions, both in the Dominican Republic and around the world, to meet, to network and to form a single union. I say this because our union was like an offspring of the other unions of the same company in the Dominican Republic, and if we’d had more support, this wouldn’t have happened to us. We held several meetings and even seminars with the aim of forming a single union, just as the company is a single body, but we couldn’t achieve that unity, perhaps due to personal differences. I must say that we didn’t feel we had the support of some of our colleagues in our efforts to unite, which was always our goal. That is why I repeat: Unite! because Nestlé does not have good intentions, and we cannot allow it to be above the people and above the law.


From Montevideo Carlos Amorín


August 28, 2008





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