FNV Bondgenoten members who will be outsourced to Sodexo on May 1 ended their strike on April 9 with a spirited demo at Unilever headquarters while a new international support action by South African IUF members was taking place in at Unilever Food Services Pietermaritzburg. After an unprecedented 6 weeks of industrial action in the Netherlands Unilever finally agreed to negotiations and the strikers approved the settlement on April 12.

The settlement brings improved pension compensation for transferred employees serving up to ten years with Sodexo, guaranteed employment for three years and other workplace guarantees including no split shifts.

Rotterdam2On April 9 the strikers gathered at Unilever headquarters in Rotterdam dressed in wigs and masks and pushing rollators. When Unilever’s CFO agreed to meet with the strikers they presented him with an abacus, the traditional Chinese calculating device, to compute their pension losses. The long denied negotiations then got underway between Unilever and the union.

While the strikers were demonstrating in Rotterdam FAWU members at the Unilever Pietermaritzburg site showed their support with a union demonstration and petitions to local and corporate management.


FNV Bondgenoten and the strikers have expressed warm appreciation for the international support and solidarity they received throughout this long and difficult conflict.

Striking Unilever workers seeking just compensation for their transfer to Sodexo made a dramatic appearance at the FNV Bondgenoten Congress in the Hague on March 21, calling on the company to meet their demands.


Union members are now in their fifth week of industrial action and have been on continuous strike since March 14.


One of the strikers, Tiny van Haren, told the IUF “I’ve been employed by Unilever in Oss for 46 years. I feel that it’s a bad deal to now have to experience this transfer to a company like Sodexo.”

Another striker, John Voorzaat, said “I’ve been working for Unilever at Nassaukade for 27 years, but because of the outsourcing to Sodoxo I’m losing a big part of my future pension, and after 6 years I will have also have to pay a bigger pension contribution. I think that Unilever can do more, I’ve earned that respect.”

Unilever knows this, but is refusing to negotiate.

Boosted by strong sales growth of Magnum ice cream, Unilever recently announced that CEO Polman’s compensation for an “exceptional” 2012 rose to a total GBP 6 milliion, or USD 9 million,

Polman’s base salary will increase 3.6 percent to GBP 1.01 million pounds in 2013, following a 6 percent increase last July.

The total package includes GBP 250,000 in ‘fixed allowance’, GBP 116,000 in pensions and GBP 288,000 in additional benefits, up from GBP 26,000 the previous year.

As the strikers say, Unilever can do more.

The Sodexo IUF global framework agreement was the platform to enable Sodexo workers from La Loma, a mining region of Colombia to gain their first collective agreement. Claims for the collective agreement were first forwarded to the company in February 2012 but at first Sodexo refused to recognise SICO, the workers union. According to the SICO National President Julio Ruben Padilla,the Company changed its mind and negotiated in good faith due to the resistance of the workers, support from the national federation CUT and through the intervention of the IUF.

Union recognition and union rights including union education and meetings were won in the Agreement. The union also negotiated wage increases, a formal disciplinary procedure, education aid for workers’ children and an education fund for workers.

Tough conflicts have marked the IUF engagement with Unilever, but the process has brought tangible results. On the eve of the meeting the IUF and its members at Unilever’s Kecap Bango joint venture in Subang, Indonesia secured over 600 new direct, permanent jobs for casual and contract workers after a lengthy struggle.

Tensions are inevitable, because the two sides bring different demands and expectations to the process. The latest meeting brought a deepening and widening of the agenda which is positive, and which could serve as a model for other transnational companies.

IUF general secretary Ron Oswald, representatives of IUF affiliates, representatives from the general and regional secretariats and a representative of IndustriAll met with corporate and regional management in London on March 5 to continue our engagement on key issues. While the core issue remains trade union rights and the denial of these rights in cases which threaten to spill over into sharp confrontation, the agenda has widened to include precarious work and the outsourcing of production, gender equality and global and health and safety policy.

Members of the IUF-affiliated Independent Union of Kecap Bango Workers (SPMKB) show their solidarity with the strikes and protest actions of the FNV Bondgenoten in the Netherlands, where the union is demanding decent transfer conditions for workers being outsourced to Sodexo.

FNV Bondgenoten has embarked on a series of actions following a breakdown in negotiations to secure decent transfer conditions for Netherlands Unilever workers scheduled to be outsourced to the catering/services giant Sodexo.

Under the terms of a Unilever/Sodexo deal struck in 2012, all Unilever ‘facility management services’ employees in the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxemburg, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France, Italy, the Nordic countries, the UK, Ireland and Poland still directly employed by Unilever or already outsourced to a service provider will be transferred to Sodexo. These include cleaners, catering workers, security, receptionists etc.


Under EU legislation on employment transfers, some but not all employment conditions are guaranteed after the transfer. The transfer takes effect on May 1 – from which date former Unilever employees will be doing the same work for Unilever as Sodexo employees under vastly inferior conditions.

Unilever has rejected the union’s demands, and the union has started a series of rolling actions beginning today. The union is demanding safeguards and compensation for workers tossed on the outsourcing scraphead:

  • Compensation for pension losses – at Sodexo, workers will pay more and receive less
  • 5-year employment guarantee
  • 5-year continuation of the s structural wage increases in the Unilever CBA
  • Indexation of the personal allowances with which the wage difference between Unilever and Sodexo is compensated.
  • Maintenance of overtime allowances, shift work allowances and other allowances related to working times based on the Unilever CBA.
  • No split shifts
  • Maintenance of several disability insurances at the Unilever level.

You can support their struggle by clicking here to send a message to FNV Bondgenoten – the messages will then be collected and delivered to Unilever. Or simply write your own message and send to FNV-Bondgenoten’s Marjolein DubbelaarM.Dubbelaar@bg.fnv.nl

You can also support them by circulating this information, meeting with your members and expressing your concerns to local management as well as sending protest and solidarity messages to the union.

February 28 action at Unilever Oss: Our pensions are gone when we go to Sodexo!


Sodexo, the world’s 21st largest employer with 391,000 employees worldwide, and the International Union of Food Workers (IUF) have announced the signing of an agreement confirming Sodexo’s commitments to respect fundamental rights at work, namely freedom of association and collective bargaining.

The international framework agreement signed on Monday December 12, 2011 by Sodexo CEO Michel Landel (shown on left) and IUF General Secretary Ron Oswald is the first of its kind in the industry. The agreement provides for a continual and progressive dialogue between Sodexo management, Sodexo employee representatives and the IUF.

Sodexo - Signature Contrat avec Mr Michel Landel, au salon Delag“The IUF is a leading voice for workers’ rights around the globe. We are pleased to have reached this agreement with the IUF, because we believethat a constructive social dialogue is one of the primary means toward progress for our employees and also because it represents a first in our industry,” said Sodexo CEO Michel Landel.

IUF General Secretary Oswald commented, “This agreement provides a concrete tool to help ensure that Sodexo workers across the world have access to their fundamental rights. Sodexo’s commitment to respect these rights is evident at the highest level of corporate management. With this agreement and the mutual engagement it guarantees we will be able to assure that Sodexo’s commitment to a culture of respect for human rights will be reinforced wherever the company operates.”

For a copy of the agreement text click here

The Food and Pharmaceutical Worker’s union of Israel has signed the first ever collective bargaining agreement with the Shefa catering company, which is owned by Sodexo Group. The agreement covers all 1000 workers across the company and is the result of lengthy negotiations between union representatives and management.

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