At the initiative of the IUF, the Danone Information and Consultation Committee, made up of representatives of unions from Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain and the United Kingdom, met in emergency session on Wednesday, January 17. The meeting was convened to allow unions throughout Europe to prepare a co-ordinated response to any restructuring plans that Danone might confirm and to demand concrete answers from Danone international corporate management in the light of recent press announcements reporting company plans to close ten Danone biscuit plants in continental Europe and eliminate 3,000 jobs.
Jean-René Buisson, general manager for human resources, Jean-Louis Gourbin, general manager for the biscuit line and other Danone management personnel were on hand to engage in direct discussions with representatives of Danone workers from 10 European countries.
In response to forceful requests for clarification of press reports announcing Danone’s decision to close biscuit plants in France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Italy and eliminate 3,000 jobs, management stated that:
- The information which appeared recently in the press is inaccurate;
- At present no plan has been finalized and no decision has been made concerning the re-organization of Danone’s biscuit activities;
- The Danone Group continues to evaluate options for re-organizing its biscuit activities but is not yet in a position to finalize any decisions relating to potential closures or related job losses.
- Detailed information on any plans to reduce the Group’s over-capacity in the biscuit sector would be communicated to the Information and Consultation Committee and to national consultation bodies within 2 to 3 months;
- Corporate management has committed itself to providing Danone workers’ representatives full information at national and international level regarding the development of any plans likely to affect employment in the sector.
Union participants responded with scepticism to the statements from management, which contrasted sharply with the detailed and concrete information reported regularly in the press. Nevertheless, Danone insisted that it was not in a position to give more concrete information, whether at national or international level.
The IUF will co-ordinate the permanent exchange of information amongst its affiliates and the development of union strategies. IUF affiliates represent the majority of Danone’s European workforce in the biscuit sector. Acting in unity at European level through their representatives on the Danone Information and Consultation Committee, Danone workers will determine the action to be taken at both European and international level.
“The meeting of the Information and Consultation Committee was no mere formality,” said IUF general secretary Ron Oswald. “It gave us the first opportunity to confront Danone corporate management with the press reports. European-level restructuring naturally requires that we meet at European level. This meeting also provided a first opportunity for Danone workers’ representatives to meet following the recent press reports. The meeting allowed those representatives to lay the essential foundations for a co-ordinated union response and related actions at European and international level should the rumoured re-structuring plan, with its attendant devastating effect on thousands of workers and their families across Europe, turn out to be Danone’s preferred option.”
The International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations (IUF) is an international trade union federation composed of 337 trade unions in 118 countries with an affiliated membership of 2.5 million members. It is based in Geneva, Switzerland.