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June 28, 2022

Danone “maintains” output at strike-hit Spain bottled-water plant

Workers at a factory in the north of the country have walked out amid a dispute over pay.

By Dean Best

Danone insists production at a strike-hit bottled-waters factory in Spain has been maintained as the industrial action enters its second day.

Staff at the French group’s plant in Sant Hilari Sacalm, a town in Catalonia north of Barcelona, have embarked on industrial action amid a dispute over pay.

The strike, which started yesterday (27 June), is scheduled to last four days, with the final day of the walk-out on Thursday.

“Half of the [Sant Hilari Sacalm] workforce went to work so production was maintained,” Danone’s Spanish arm told Just Drinks today.

Asked to detail the offer Danone had made to its bottled-water staff, the company said: “The dialogue with the works council representatives to respond to the demands is still open. The company’s proposal for its three plants in [bottled water], central offices and sales network in Spain has already been validated with the works council representatives of the Lanjarón and Sigüenza plants, where an agreement has already been reached.”

Spanish trade union CCOO today indicated staff at the Sant Hilari Sacalm site could not accept the offer on the table.

“[The] second day of the strike at Aguas Danone (Font Vella) in Sant Hilari to demand [pay] increases that guarantee the purchasing power of the staff,” the union tweeted.

“We cannot accept a business proposal that represents a loss, especially if the company has made a profit in 2021.”

According to union officials quoted in Spanish media reports, Danone has put forward an offer of a pay rise of 3% to be made in two installments.

Meanwhile, workers at a second Danone factory in Spain yesterday demonstrated about the company’s plan to close the plant.

Last month, Danone laid out plans to end production at a manufacturing facility in Salas, a town in the north west of the country.

The factory manufactures desserts, fresh cheese and cheese flan.

“In the case of Salas, despite the fact that yesterday there was a mobilisation by the workers, the minimum services were maintained to ensure the continuity of production,” Danone’s Spain unit said.

“Negotiations with the workers are still open and the company maintains the proposal to pre-retire 50% of the workers, to offer transfers if there are vacancies in other plants in Spain and a commitment to re-qualification to guarantee 100% relocations in other activities. At the same time, the company is holding talks for the sale of the factory to a solvent buyer that guarantees industrial continuity in Salas.”

Danone, which was founded in Spain, employs 2,000 workers in the country. Spain is one of Danone’s largest markets in Europe when measuring annual sales.

In March, Danone held a capital markets day to set out its strategic plans under recently-installed CEO Antoine de Saint-Affrique.

Speaking to investors, newly-appointed COO Vikram Agarwal touched on how the company views its manufacturing network.

Danone, Agarwal said, wants to make its “operations fit for the future”, which includes “an efficient, yet flexible, manufacturing footprint”.

He added: “I take this in two parts. The first part is what I call the four-wall efficiency: doing better within the four walls of our factory and stretching our assets to the maximum, improving our operating efficiencies, improving our factory yields. And, secondly, looking at how our footprint is placed and whether that is still in tune with the growth mix that we have between our categories: for example, plant-based, certainly investing in more capacities behind it.”

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