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South African Unilever workers’ solidarity for Dutch colleagues

21 March, 2013Members of the IndustriALL-affiliated CEPPWAWU trade union in South Africa conducted a one and a half day work stoppage on 15 and 18 March, in a strong demonstration of international solidarity with Unilever workers in the Netherlands whose jobs have been outsourced.

The Dutch workers, including cleaners, catering workers, security and receptionists, are members of fellow affiliate of IndustriALL Global Union, FNV Bondgenoten. The Anglo-Dutch food and chemical giant Unilever signed a deal with Sodexo in 2012 over the outsourcing of the company’s facility management services in Europe. Unilever rejected key demands of the Dutch workers being transferred to Sodexo to maintain core benefits including pensions and work guarantees.

South African workers at Unilever, members of the Chemical, Energy, Paper, Printing, Wood and Allied Workers Union, CEPPWAWU, stopped work in Boksburg from 1pm on 15 March and all day on 18 March urging Unilever management to negotiate a reasonable transfer agreement with FNV Bondgenoten.

The other reason for the Boksburg action is that a draft recognition agreement has recently been proposed by the local Unilever Boksburg management to be implemented, bringing serious changes to job classification and re-evaluation of the general operator position.

A CEPPWAWU shop steward at Unilever stated:

Also the solidarity action was an opportunity to show management our strength and unity given the current challenges that we are facing in South Africa. Amongst our challenges are concerns of salary cuts being implemented as part of restructuring efforts which effectively is a demotion of certain grades of workers, who carry on doing the same job as before.

Kemal Özkan, Assistant General Secretary of IndustriALL Global Union conveyed the International’s full support to the Boksburg workers’ strike action.

Unilever is a giant global conglomerate of consumer products, whose profits continue to rise. 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.