De Unie, in your interest
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Unilever R&D: Progressive insight or disguised reorganization?

On June 19, 2018 there were consultations between De Unie, the fellow trade unions and the employer about the announcement of 30 May 2018. During that announcement, the employer stated that it wished to make additional agreements with the trade unions on the current URDV social plan.

New insights

Unilever indicates that there is progressive insight. According to the employer, there are more employees than expected who do not want to go to Wageningen. In addition, there is also a group of employees who are more difficult to redeploy than expected in one of the positions available in Wageningen. Unilever now wants to facilitate these employees by offering a voluntary severance scheme. In the eyes of De Unie an astonishing turn of Unilever, since a year ago it was absolutely unwilling to participate in OUR proposals for the voluntary departure schemes.

In addition, Unilever also states that the current social plan will remain in full force and that anyone who wants to go to Wageningen can also come along. In itself a noble intention. De Unie finds it very odd, however, and does not rhyme with offering a voluntary severance scheme.

Why now? Disguised reorganization?

Unilever states that it wants to do this now, a year before the redundancy plan expires for two reasons: firstly, to offer security to the employees who do not want to join, but have to join at the moment because they have no alternative. Secondly, they want to have certainty about who will and who will not, for the sake of business continuity.

All in all, this involves about 130 roles. Let's say 150 employees. When asked, Unilever indicated that on 1 July 2019 570 roles will still be active in Wageningen and available for R&D employees from Vlaardingen. The (near) future will tell. De Unie cannot escape the firm impression, however, that this is a covert reorganization or anticipate it.

Position of De Unie

It will already be clear that De Unie finds this move by Unilever strange. We do not want an organization such as Unilever to completely deny the problems of employees who are not willing or able to participate, or who cannot be made suitable for the positions in Wageningen, last May. Unilever is through De Unie warned about this several times. It is also undeniably the case that the desire to offer the severance package now, in combination with other judgments, has caused a great deal of unrest and uncertainty. We have also made this explicitly known to Unilever. De Unie wishes clarity and certainty for all employees. Those who want to go to Wageningen, those who do not want to / cannot and those who are at risk of missing the boat.

What now?

It is unclear which measures Unilever will propose substantively. In that sense, we cannot judge how we should proceed. That is why we have asked Unilever to submit written proposals well before July 2, 2018. The next meeting will be on that date. In addition, the works council (OR) will also have to advise on Unilever's intentions to offer voluntary severance packages.


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