Kraft has moved up the international union agenda – a necessary development in response to the company’s rapid international growth. No longer primarily a North American company with European and emerging market operations, Kraft has become, in the company’s words, a “global snacks powerhouse” following the acquisition of Danone’s European biscuit business and the 2010 acquisition of Cadbury.
For this reason, the IUF convened a global union meeting in Åkersberga, Sweden, from May 10-11, 2011. Hosted by the Swedish Food Workers Union Livs, the IUF brought together 23 unions organizing Kraft Foods workers from around the world to evaluate these dynamic developments and develop an effective union response.
Analysis demonstrated how the combined acquisitions of Danone and Cadbury, while shifting the profit center and growth drivers out of North America, has strained the company’s finances, forcing it to meet earning targets through aggressive cost-cutting, sell-offs and outsourcing. With investment shrinking rapidly relative to assets and cash flow, workers could expect an increase in the outsourced production of Kraft-branded products which had already devastated jobs in North America over past years. Pressure on cash flow also meant a potential scramble to sell off brands – and the workers who produce them
Delegates concluded that this model of meeting investor expectations is unsustainable in the long term and puts jobs, pensions and working conditions at risk. Delegates accordingly resolved to develop their coordination and cooperation within the company to exchange information and provide mutual solidarity and support. A steering group composed of key IUF affiliates within Kraft will facilitate this work.
The meeting expressed support to the members of the Finnish foodworkers union SEL at the Kraft plant in Vantaa, where 24 permanent workers have been handed dismissal notices, of which 19 have been told they can return to employment on a call-in basis with no guaranteed hours. Stopping the destruction of direct, permanent employment with disposable jobs was identified as a key union priority.
Documents of the meeting are available to IUF affiliates on request to [email protected]