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Paths to Transnational Solidarity

Identity-Building Processes in European Works Councils


Hermann Kotthoff and Michael Whittall

With national industrial relations systems struggling to keep apace with the global and mobile nature of capital, the emergence of the European works council has caught the imagination of both practitioners and scholars of this institution in the last two decades. European works councils find themselves at the centre of an ever emerging European industrial relations landscape, offering employees of multinationals within the European Economic Area the opportunity to work together in regulating employment conditions. An in-depth empirical study of five European works councils, this book offers a unique look into factors which promote and hinder the development of solidarity amongst employees. With a sociological bent, this volume is a must for EWC delegates struggling to deal with geographical, cultural and historical factors that undermine relations between them.
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Chapter 4: Transnational patterns of EWC solidarity: Case studies


← 28 | 29 → CHAPTER 4

Transnational patterns of EWC solidarity: Case studies

4.1 The EWC as a working team in dialogue with management. Solidarity as workplace citizenship


The two cases of Unilever and Kraft Foods closely resemble each other and are therefore grouped within the same pattern of solidarity. The main part of this section consists of a detailed analysis of Unilever, followed by a shorter, complementary, outline of developments at Kraft Foods. The remaining patterns of solidarity are illustrated with one case study in each instance.

4.1.1 Operational and organizational structure


At the time our research was conducted, Unilever, sometimes referred to as an Anglo-Dutch company, had four business divisions: food (including margarines, soups and sauces, and beverages); food solutions (individual production and supply to large-scale kitchens); ice cream; and home and personal care (including personal care and domestic cleaning agents). The company is a market leader in most of these fields or, as with margarine, ice cream, beverages and personal care, is in second place.

Unilever was created in 1929 through the amalgamation of the British soap manufacturer Lever Brothers and the Dutch margarine producer ← 29 | 30 → Unie. The two companies shared a common basis in the main raw material for their products, edible oils. The company grew rapidly in Britain and Continental Europe through a large series of acquisitions of small and medium-sized food and detergent manufacturers...

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