Is Danone Socially Responsible? Or Do Danone’s Managers Put Pressure on Trade Union Activists?
December 24, 2018
For the last two years, management at Danone’s flagship plant in the city of Chekhov, Moscow Region, have tried to destroy its trade union local. Senior and junior managers at the plant have attempted pass off each incident as separate, unrelated, and harmless cases, but nothing could be farther from the truth.
After the trade union local at the plant fought a hard fight to raise the wages of employees and improve work safety, plant management has clearly and deliberately tried to shut the trade union down.
Management has used various methods to “explain” to trade union members why they should refrain from activism, fighting for pay rises, and being members of a workers organization. Management has often resorted to telling plant workers that trade union members would have problems and spreading lies about the trade union’s work. They have tried other things as well.
Two years have passed, and another case of anti-union discrimination has emerged. Alexander Chubukov, a key activist in the Danone plant’s trade union local who has never yielded to threats and coercion, has recently been subject to pressure from management.
At the beginning of the year, Chubukov was formally reprimanded for an alleged infraction. To make a long story short, Chubukov was alleged to have failed to notify the responsible manager of a malfunctioning production line. He continued to work on the line, which produced spoiled products. A court is currently examining the case.
Currently, plant management has a different gripe with Chubukov, accusing him of warning management about malfunctioning machinery and refusing to work until the machinery was repaired.
What is the rationale in this instance? Management is not concerned about machinery and malfunctions. They simply want to get rid of a trouble-making trade union activist.
Plant management wants to transfer Chubukov to another shift. They want to put more distance between him and the trade union committee’s chair and leading activists. They want to “teach” him how to work, although Chubukov has worked as a machine operator and mechanic at the plant for over ten years.
The trade union would not be surprised were management to take more serious measures, since they have been trying to force Chubukov to resign all this time.
Danone’s “socially responsible” management agreed to meet with trade union local chair Alexander Ivanov and Alexander Chubukov, of course, but the quality of the meeting left much to be desired.
Plant management has failed to supply the trade union local with the necessary documents. It has reacted in no way to specific complaints about the condition of the malfunction production line. It has failed to prove Chubukov committed any of the infractions of which it has accused him. Nevertheless, it has decided to transfer him to another shift for “training.”
“Novoprof cannot ignore this case. We will do everything possible to end the discrimination at Danone. We believe management’s behavior is motivated solely by the desire to eradicate the trade union local at the Chekhov plant. There are special means of ending the discrimination at the company’s disposal and the trade union’s disposal. We will use all means necessary,” said Ivan Milykh, chair of the Novoprof Interregional Trade Union.
Translated by the Russian Reader