Dutch strike threat over Unilever sell-off
UNILEVER’S Dutch works council is threatening to call for strike action across the consumer goods giant’s factories if buyers of its margarine business don’t agree to protect jobs and pension guarantees.
The Anglo-dutch company shortlisted four private equity bidders earlier this month in the £6.5bn auction for its spreads unit, which includes the Flora and Stork brands. Hermann Soggeberg, chairman of Unilever’s works council, told The Sunday Telegraph that the sale was of “great concern” as it affects more than 1,100 European employees.
Soggeberg said he would write to Unilever and prospective bidders next week to make “official demands that there will be a sustainable plan, which includes job protection and a maintenance of current terms and conditions, including of pension schemes”. Mr Soggeberg said the council was prepared to “ask our colleagues at all Unilever’s factories to support our demands whichever way they can.
“Mobilising the factories could be an option”, he said. The works council succeeded in gaining guarantees when Unilever sold Birdseye in 2006.
Dutch law typically offers protection for one year after a sale. The margarine unit is seen as a “historic pillar”. Unilever was created in 1929 when Britain’s Lever Brothers merged with Margarine Unie of the Netherlands.