Dutch strike threat over Unilever sell-off

The Sunday Telegraph - Money & Business - - Front page - By Ashley Arm­strong

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.

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