Unilever has come under criticism from unions for being short-sighted when announcing the target to increase profits by 20 per cent by 2020. The Unilever European Works Council says that employees will be left to foot the bill.
Unilever is looking to sell the spreads business, with the buyer expected to be announced in the coming weeks.
The sale will directly impact more than 1,000 employees in Europe, and the union is criticising the fact that they have not been involved in the process.
The European Works Council says in a statement that they expect the sales discussion to include the maintaining of jobs and working conditions, including company pensions.
“It should not purely hinge on which of the interested parties is prepared to pay the highest price. A buyer should have a business plan based on the sustainable growth of brands and it should also be in a position to offer employees good prospects.”
As the food supply chain is under scrutiny, times are increasingly tough for the Unilever workforce. Sites around Europe are audited and some have been sold, and centralizing services in the last year has added to the burden. Together with strict saving plans, supply bottlenecks have emerged and the EWC has issued several warnings about possible consequences.
Now trade unions and the EWC call on Unilever to re-evaluate decisions made in recent months:
“Unilever’s primary objective must be to provide people with good products, protect the environment and take on board the needs of employees throughout the whole value chain whilst keeping good and safe jobs in Europe.”
Kemal Özkan, IndustriALL Global Union assistant general secretary, says:
"Unilever claims to be a champion of sustainability, incorporating human and labour rights along with economic development and environmental protection in the concept.
"But the social dimension is not secondary to the economic dimension - sustainability cannot be achieved without sustainable jobs.”