Jibaros in Unilever


Apparently some Jibaros have infiltrated the ranks of Unilever’s senior executives –where it is logical to find an abundance of British and Dutch officers, as the company originated in those countries. This suspicion arises from the company’s obstinate determination to reduce the size of things and “get into the heads” of its employees.



Back in early August of this year, in our article “Unilever's teetotum,” we reported the company’s decision to reduce the number of its factories worldwide by about 50 to 60, which meant cutting 20 thousand of the current 179 thousand jobs. While the Jibaro tribe was known for shrinking the heads of their enemies to turn them into amulets, the shrinking of factories and jobs in Unilever is aimed at increasing shareholder profit.  


Now, less than a month later, we hear that Brazil’s Department of Consumer Protection and Defense (DPDC) fined Unilever with 788,217 reais (some US$ 409,000) for cutting the content of their Arisco tomato paste container, which went from 370 to 350 grams.


In a line of reasoning that was a mixture of mockery and cynicism, Unilever defended itself by claiming that it had reduced the content of the Arisco containers to match that of Cica, its leading brand in the market. In their opinion there was no false advertising or omissions that could lead consumers to confusion, as the new packaging has detailed information on the product. For its part, the DPDC rejected that argument because it understood that a simple indication of the new weight on the container, with no express warning, does not inform consumers in a clear and obvious way of the change in the quantity, and, therefore, the right of consumers to information is violated.**


While Unilever’s modern Jibaros are not attempting to imitate their ancestors by actually shrinking the heads of their victims –the thousands of men and women they are laying off–, they are trying to “get into the heads” of those workers that remain. They’ve already started with a novel experience in their Barcelona (Spain) offices, where employees can find out what is going on in the company through a closed circuit TV channel. This “Unilever TV,” as it is called, consists of a set of multimedia panels with large screens distributed throughout the workers’ rest areas. The system keeps employees informed about what’s happening outside the office, with headlines of the leading news and weather forecasts. It also highlights the advantages of working in the company, among them the discounts workers obtain in certain stores and restaurants.


Besides the legal actions that this new development may give rise to, considering the right workers have of having full command of their body and mind during their breaks and doing whatever they please, TV Unilever should spark a quick reaction from the union, which should demand that the company respect the workers’ rights to shut off the system during their breaks. Better still, that during their breaks, the system be placed at the service of the union –like an extension of the union bulletin board.


Meanwhile, workers of Unilever be warned! If you see a character dressed up in feathers and carrying a blowpipe…be suspicious.


From Montevideo, Enildo Iglesias

© Rel-UITA

September 11, 2007

Enildo Iglesias





* The author uses the term “Jibaros” to refer to the tribe of South American Indians known for their head-shrinking practices, playing with the allusion the word has in Spanish and Unilever’s current practices.


** Besides Unilever, the DPDC fined two other companies who it found guilty of cutting the content of their products: The Argentinean transnational corporation Arcor, manufacturer of Butter Toffee candies, was fined with R$ 472,930 (US$ 245,000) for reducing the quantity of three of their packages. The other company fined was Néctar, in its case with R$ 177,350 (US$ 91,900) as they reduced the contents of their dulce de leche containers from 500 to 400 grams.


  Photomontage by: Rel-UITA



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