Published: 13/05/2019

On May 10 in London, the IUF, IndustriALL and Unilever signed an agreement to ensure that the rights of all workers in Unilever manufacturing operations are adequately protected from the potential adverse human rights impacts stemming from the use of non-permanent employment contracts.

The Joint Commitment on Sustainable Employment in Unilever Factories is a rights-based commitment based on the recognition that “Temporary contracts and third-party agency employment relationships can potentially deprive workers of the protections and worker rights outlined in the International Labour Organisation’s Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work and the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises.” The agreement enumerates the human rights risks inherent in non-permanent employment, whether workers are hired directly by Unilever or through a third-party agency, including risks to union representation and collective bargaining rights, equal treatment, access to social security and the right to a safe workplace.

The agreement strictly limits the use of non-permanent manufacturing employment to non-recurring tasks, and emphasizes that it cannot be used in ways which undermine permanent employment. The use of ‘zero-hours contracts’ is excluded: the Joint Commitment stipulates that “Temporary workers will be informed of their work schedules with sufficient notice, and not be retained on call without pay, such that they are unable to take alternative work.”

It prescribes a process of continuous human rights due diligence through engagement and negotiation with IUF and IndustriALL and their members, representing the vast majority of unionized Unilever workers world-wide. The agreement establishes a platform for negotiations at all levels on rights impacts arising from the use of non-permanent employment in manufacturing should unions seek to raise them with management. The evolution of employment and the application of the agreement will be subject to continuous review.

Left to right: IndustriALL general secretary Valter Sanches, Unilever CEO Alan Jope and IUF general secretary Sue Longley sign the agreement in London at Unilever House.

CLICK HERE to read the agreement