Published: 31/10/2011

European Works Council meetings are normally placid affairs, an opportunity for corporate management to present delegates with carefully sifted information which allows them to claim workers have been “consulted”.

The Belgian unions fighting against the loss of up to 25% of the workforce at Kraft’s Côte d’or factory in Halle disturbed this tranquil information exchange by marching into the EWC meeting in Brussels on October 25 and making it clear that they rejected the company’s plan to transfer production of the plant’s iconic products far from Belgium, which would leave the factory producing only chocolate bars and tablets.

Union representatives presented management with 7,500 signatures in support of their struggle gathered through the IUF from Kraft workers around the world.

Kraft management has told the Halle workers to accept the restructuring – which would bring, according to company estimates, savings of some 6.5 million euros annually – in exchange for a one-off investment of EUR 2 million to outfit the factory for its conversion into a “platform”, a proposition which the unions reject.

Kraft meanwhile is preparing to deliver a bonanza to investors through its planned split of the company into two separate corporate entities by the end of next year. If it works as planned, the split will deliver handsomely to shareholders while upping the pressure on workers in both the new companies – the global snacks and North American grocery division – through layoffs and outsourcing.