Mass layoffs and contempt for workers

The Unilever way

Last October 31, the multinational corporation decided to lay off 89 workers, including some with decades on the job.

Gerardo Iglesias

16 | 02 | 2023

Imagen: Allan McDonald | Rel UITA

That weekend, workers at Unilever’s National Distribution Center in Guayaquil were asked to empty out their lockers with the excuse that the premises needed to be fumigated.

On Monday, October 31, the workers were surprised to find that they could not go into work, as their access cards were rejected. Confusion grew as more workers arrived and were prevented from entering. They turned to each other in alarm and a feeling of unease spread, presaging bad news. Amidst the uncertainty, workers heard a loud order: “Form five groups!”
With the workers divided and dispersed into different areas, the company’s intentions started to become clear.

Isabel Miranda, the center’s manager, simply said: “Good morning. Mute your cell phones and listen to me. Unilever Andina has begun a transformation process.

This means that your employment contracts end today. You will need to report individually to a Human Resources officer, who will tell you how much severance pay and other benefits you are entitled to. That is all I have to say to you. Wait until you are called in.

“The meeting was extremely brief,” a worker stressed.

“Several fellow workers were not allowed to go in for their belongings. We were treated like criminals, after so many years working for the company,” another dismayed worker said.

As with the closure of plants in Chile and in Argentina, these workers in Ecuador were also fired abruptly without any prior instances of negotiation with the trade unions.

On its website, Unilever declares: “We have set an ambitious sustainability agenda to tackle the problems that our consumers and stakeholders care deeply about, such as climate change, plastic pollution and inequality.”

And it goes on to say: “To deliver the ambitious agenda, we are harnessing our brands, our people, and our partners to make a positive and long-lasting impact, both in the world and in our company.”

For the workers in Guayaquil, Unilever’s commitment to a better world is ultimately exposed by reality as the marketing ploy that it actually is, laying bare the company’s hypocrisy.