About half of the workers were forced to accept the offer, said Alemania, explaining that because they have been without income for more than a year already, majority have lost their homes and been forced to withdraw their children from school.
Majority of the remaining striking workers, 250 of them, meanwhile, are being burdened by the numerous “trumped-up charges” being filed by the management against them. Each has up to 20 charges, including Noel Alemania who is facing 39 cases. Charges filed against them ranged from slight physical injury to robbery.
“There are only less than 20 complainants, most of them came from the strike dispersal units, who cited the Nestlé factory as their address,” said UFE board members.
Ironically, included in those charged with inflicting physical injuries by the company are union board members Rey Batitis, who sustained injuries on his head and feet when the armed guards attacked their picketline, and Vic Batayon, who sustained broken bones, was knocked unconscious and dragged inside a container van, and then locked there for hours by the DOLE-deputized armed men.
The striking workers are also being charged with robbery allegedly for the loss of some truncheons, whips and shields, which the workers found out were embedded with sharp blades and spikes. “No wonder we bleed profusely when hit,” workers told Bulatlat. They are also being accused of having stolen the drums full of stinking water which the Nestlé armed troops habitually poured on them or on their picket line in the course of their dispersal operations.
“Our determination may serve as warning to the capitalists of Nestlé, a warning that they should negotiate with us, a sign that we will continue our fight. We stand by our demands because these are just demands,” the strikers declared at the height of the first of the many brutal demolitions of their picket eight years ago.
But while the strikers continue to battle the world’s biggest food company with the Philippine’s labor department and armed troops on its side, they are also battling against time. Some had been near retirement age when they launched their strike at the start of Arroyo’s presidency. As of today, 38 have died from various illnesses, aside from those who were killed namely, Roxas, and Luciano Enrique Romero Molina and Diosdado Fortuna who were both murdered in September 2005, after having been tagged by Nestlé as persona non grata.
From their picket line in front of Nestlé, the strikers hope their persistence would soon bear fruit, perhaps under a new administration. They aired an Australian senator delivering a speech in support of workers and shaming Nestlé’s anti-worker practices. They showed a picture of a picket that happened in Europe where protesters carried large placards screaming at Nestlé, “There’s blood in your coffee.” They hope to muster more local and international support. (Bulatlat.com)