Serious questions need to be asked about Unilever’s future business strategy and its implications for jobs, following recent announcements by the consumer goods giant that it is considering dumping two of its UK businesses as well as evaluating the future of a number of others.
Unite today (Friday 31 January) urged Unilever, which made net global profits of more than £5 billion in 2019, not to “sacrifice profitable and sustainable businesses for the sake of short term returns”.
Unilever yesterday announced it is reviewing its global tea division, which accounted for £2.5 billion in sales last year and includes the PG Tips brand in the UK.
The company has also said it is considering closing a washing powder factory in Warrington, where the Surf and Persil brands are produced.
The announcements follow comments by Unilever chief executive Alan Jope that a number of Unilever brands may be a risk as it pursues greater growth.
Unite has more than 150 members at a PG Tips factory in Manchester, around 40 at the Warrington washing powder factory and represents more than 1,500 workers across Unilever as a whole.
Unite national officer Rhys McCarthy said, “Unilever’s direction of travel is concerning, particularly in light of its recent announcements and chief executive Alan Jope’s comments casting doubt on the future of a number of the firm’s brands.
“It makes no sense to throw away businesses that still make considerable profits and have a long term future simply because they are not growing fast enough. Unilever staff across the country will of course be concerned that their jobs could be needlessly put at risk in an effort to hastily increase dividends.
“Unite will not sit back and allow Unilever to throw good jobs away just to satisfy the demands of the market. It is in nobody’s interests except the speculators for Unilever to sacrifice profitable and sustainable businesses for the sake of short term returns.”
Commenting on how Unilever’s plans for its global tea businesses could affect workers at the multinational’s PG Tips factory in Manchester, Unite regional officer Jimmy Carter said there must be a full consultation before any decision is made.
He said, “We urge Unilever not to sell what are still very popular and profitable brands. If a sale is decided upon, Unilever must only consider bids from reputable buyers who have long term and sustainable plans for the business.
“Whatever happens, Unite will fight to ensure our members’ jobs and terms and conditions are not put in the firing line during this process.”
Andrew Johnson is the union’s regional officer for Unilever’s Warrington factory.
He said: “We urge Unilever to fully consider all possible alternatives to shutting the site. If job losses do go ahead, Unilever must ensure that any redundancies are voluntary and staff are offered other opportunities that may exist within the group.”