Unilever alienating workers in South Africa and UK

12.02.2014

Trade unions continue to rally against the anti-union management policies of food and chemical giant Unilever. IndustriALL joins IUF in condemning latest anti-worker in the UK and South Africa.

Unite the Union members at Unilever’s factory in Purfleet, Essex, have been “offered” a pay cut of up to 30%. Purfleet management has refused to consider all proposals from the union negotiators, instead offering a deal which will slash pensions, bonuses, salaries, replace full time workers with individual contract employees outside the bargaining unit, reclassify jobs, and establish a new shift schedule with much reduced time off.

Purfleet workers have been threatened that the cuts are necessary to maintain the viability of the site, the largest margarine factory in the world. The factory produces millions of tubs of well-known brands Flora and Stork every day.

Unilever espouses at every opportunity the company’s commitment to ethical corporate behaviour, in line with the early history of the company. The workers who make Unilever products around the world want to see clear indications of these high ethics.

Unilever is a giant global conglomerate of consumer products, whose profits continue to rise. The company boasts that every day two billion people use a Unilever product. 

However trade unions throughout the world are being targeted with increased pressure from the employer, in a concerning global trend. International trade union networking of Unilever workers is acting to respond to this new aggression. 

The international trade union for food, farm and hotel workers, the IUF’s South African affiliated trade union the Food and Allied Workers’ Union (FAWU) is leading 220 members on strike at Unilever’s tea and food factory in Pietermaritzburg. The strike is on-going since 17 January.

IUF reports:

"The strike action revolves around the actual wage increment that workers want at 9%," FAWU general secretary Masemola said. The strike was also to demand "the reversal of a youth wage subsidy-type model where grades are lowered in terms of remuneration rates to employ young workers at lower rates while the content of the grades, or jobs, remains the same".

British Unilever workers at the Port Sunlight factory near Liverpool rallied at the plant gates on 3 February in support of the FAWU strikers.

Workers and their communities have been brutally left out of the company's “sustainable living” plan. Unilever has built a record of hurting its employees in Brazil, Colombia, Indonesia, Netherlands, Russia, South Africa, Thailand, the UK, and elsewhere.

This alarming trend of pressuring workplaces and Unilever workers’ trade unions moved the global network to strengthen mutual solidarity and support.

Said the network statement in March 2013:

“We insist on sustainable workplaces, sustainable employment and guarantees of rights for current and future Unilever workers. So that workers may share in the benefits of the company’s growth, rather than paying for it with the loss of our jobs, our health and our rights.”

Kemal Özkan Assistant General Secretary of IndustriALL Global Union said:

“Our efforts to unify Unilever workers worldwide with our sister International IUF continue with determination.”

You can send a solidarity message to FAWU by emailing FAWU general secretary Katishi Masemola at this address: [email protected]