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'Adding Insecurity to Life': Dutch Unions Challenge Unilever Shareholders on Repressive Employment Practices Behind CSR Spin

Posted to the IUF website 18-May-2009

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FNV Bondgenoten President Henk van der Kolk between Unilever's Dutch Director and CEO Polman (Photo: Merel Maissan).

The Dutch national center FNV and the IUF-affiliated FNV Bondgenoten turned out in force for Unilever's May 14 annual shareholder meeting in Rotterdam, highlighting the squalid social practices behind the company's well-polished "corporate social responsibility" public relations spin.

Unilever workers and support groups were massed at the two meeting entrances, handing out campaign material in support of the IUF's Unilever Pakistan campaign and the newly published "Erratum - Adding Insecurity to Life", an 'alternative annual report' contrasting Unilever practices with the empty claims of the slick company report and massive advertising. Published with the support of the FNV/ Bondgenoten, the UK TUC and Unite and the India Committee of the Netherlands, "Erratum" (available here as a pdf download in English from the FNV website ) makes extensive use of published IUF materials on the systemic abuse of casual labour and union busting in Pakistan but also reports on social conditions on Indian tea plantations supplying to Unilever as well as the company's environmental devastation and mercury poisoning at the site of its former thermometer factory in Kodiakanal, India, among other issues. For the first time, unions forcefully presented evidence to shareholders of massive corporate social irresponsibility at Unilever, prompting awkward questions from the floor. The action, which was accompanied by music and street theater, compelled Unilever corporate management to meet with an IUF/FNV delegation and received wide coverage in the Dutch media.

For the previous day's meeting of Unilever PLC shareholders in London, the IUF-affiliated Unite issued a press release in support of the Pakistan workers' fight for direct, permanent employment.

The latest news from the IUF's campaign for decent work at Unilever Pakistan are available on the Casual-T and LUXurious profits web pages.