Today Usdaw and Unite urged Unilever to heed calls from its European Works Council (UEWC) 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 Usdaw and Unite 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 UEWC, Usdaw and Unite believe Unilever's must focus on providing good products, while keeping good and secure jobs in Europe.
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."
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."
Notes for editors:
Usdaw (Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers)
is the UK's fifth biggest trade union with over 430,000 members. Membership has increased by more than 28% over the last decade. Most Usdaw members work in the retail sector, but the Union also has many members in transport, distribution, food manufacturing, chemicals and other trades.
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