Workers in Egypt and Tunisia under attack at Mondelēz
Mondelēz was created last October when snack products were separated from the former Kraft Foods. It’s a company with a dream: “Create delicious moments of joy for our consumers, employees and communities around the world.” But the company has created no joy for employees in Egypt and Tunisia.
Mondelēz International is the transnational snack foods company created in October 2012 when snack foods were separated from the former Kraft Foods Inc. It calls itself a company with a dream: To “create delicious moments of joy for our consumers, employees and communities around the world”. But the company has created no joy for workers in Egypt and Tunisia. In these countries, where people have given their lives in nation-wide fights for rights and democracy, Mondelēz workers claimed the right to form independent unions and negotiate with their employers. Mondelēz decided that the exercise of rights stops at their factory gates.
When the fall of Mubarak promised a new era of democracy in Egypt, 250 out of 300 workers at the Cadbury/Kraft/Mondelēz chewing gum factory in Alexandria formed an independent union and registered it with the authorities. Management refused to recognize the union. When a spontaneous protest arose on the night shift of July 27, 2012 over the company’s refusal to pay a Government-ordered wage increase, the company reacted by firing the union’s five founding members - at least two of whom were not even at work when the protest took place. Workers in the plant are cut off from their union leaders and these leaders and their families face real hardship.
In Tunisia, Mondelēz owns 49% of one of Africa’s largest biscuit makers, SOTUBI, whose Tunis factory makes Mondelēz-branded products such as TUC. The factory employs 1,600 workers, 80% of them women. Hundreds are employed on precarious contracts through an agency; many of them have been there longer than the legal limit for obtaining permanent contracts.
In the midst of tough bargaining for a new collective agreement, the general secretary of the local union was summarily dismissed on July 10,2012 for representing and meeting with the workers who elected him. This was followed by the August 13 suspension of the deputy general secretary. Under enormous pressure from management, the remaining union leaders resigned from the board. A new board has since been elected, but there has been no reinstatement and management is avoiding real negotiations.
Meanwhile back at Mondelēz headquarters…
The company responds to protests from around the world with denials and misinformation and a callous disregard for the plight of its ex-employees who were elected by their workmates to represent them. Communications from the IUF, which represent the vast majority of Mondelēz unionized workers around the world, go unanswered.
But CEO Irene Rosenfeld had a delicious moment of joy when she paid herself a USD 10 million bonus in January 2013 after less than 3 months in the job!
A bonus for supreme arrogance?
Rosenfeld, as former CEO of Kraft Foods, twice rejected requests to appear before the UK parliament in response to public concerns about the impact of the Cadbury acquisition, saying it was “not the best use of her time”.
Appearing before the nation’s elected representatives was not the best use of her time, nor, apparently, is remedying breaches of fundamental human rights.
Safety and wellness for employees?
“Every day, our success depends upon 100,000 capable, dedicated and diverse Mondelēz International employees around the world. Treating them well and providing them with a workplace that is safe is the right thing to do and essential for our long-term success”. That’s the claim!
In July 2011 a temporary contract worker in Alexandria was called back on his day off to work a machine alone that normally requires three people to operate. In a workplace accident, his thumb was severed. Half an hour later workmates take him to the hospital, the company pays for his operation and promises him a permanent job. When he returns to work there is no permanent job but rather permanent unpaid leave. The company promises to call but Mr Abdulghani is still waiting for that call and is still out of work.
Mondelēz - what has it got to hide?
If Mondelēz is confident it has acted appropriately, why will they not sit down with the IUF, the organization representing the vast majority of Mondelēz union workers around the world? The IUF regularly engages with many of the company’s international rivals – what have they got to hide?
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