Quality products and job security should be the keys to Unilever’s future business strategy, trade unions have urged.
Today (Monday 27 November) Unite and Usdaw urged Unilever to heed calls from its European Works Council (EWC) to change course to maintain its position as a ‘progressive business’ intent on growing sustainably and having a positive social impact.
The background to this union call is that Unilever, after successfully resisting a takeover bid by Kraft Heinz in February, implemented a strategic review that announced its intention to increase profits by 20 per cent by 2020.
The business has already undertaken some significant restructuring in Europe, starting with the decision to sell off its spreads business which affects over 1,000 employees in Europe.
Furthermore, the business is in the process of auditing its whole supply chain in food.
This has already led to the sale of a site in the Netherlands, with additional scrutiny being placed on the Colman’s site, owned by Unilever, in Norwich since the beverage manufacturer Britvic announced it was leaving the shared site.
The announcement last month has serious implications for the future of Colman’s Mustard, which has been produced in Norfolk for more than two centuries. Unilever is conducting a review of the whole site due to be concluded by the end of this month.
While both Unite and Usdaw welcomed the rejection of the Kraft Heinz bid earlier this year, it is of increasing concern that the impact has been for Unilever to embark on a path that has led to greater uncertainty amongst its workforce.
Echoing the call from the EWC, Unite and Usdaw believe Unilever must focus on providing good products, while keeping good and secure jobs in Europe.
Unite national officer Rhys McCarthy said: “Our members make household products which are much loved by UK consumers. We remain concerned that an indirect consequence of the Kraft Heinz bid will be further cost cutting that could lead to great brands being harmed through a never ending drive to push costs down.
“We do not believe that this approach is either in workers’ interests or those of Unilever as a whole.”
Usdaw national officer Daniel Adams said: “Our members want Unilever to maintain its position as an employer that understands the positive impact it can have on employees and consumers lives.
“It is a significant concern, therefore, that while the business resisted the approach of Kraft Heinz, the impact appears to be a change in direction from the company that is driven by the short-term views of investors and analysts.”
Notes to editors:
For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 020 3371 2060 or 07768 693940. Unite press office is on: 020 3371 2065. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.