New global agreement on work-related stress at Danone

Multinational food company Danone and the International Union of Food workers have signed the first worldwide agreement on health, safety, working conditions and stress within the agro-food sector. It is also the first agreement to extend a stress prevention policy worldwide. It was signed on 29 September 2011, and lays down principles that must be respected by each company in the Danone group, based on mandatory consultation between management and staff representatives.

Preventing work-related stress

The agreement (70Kb PDF) between the French food products multinational corporation Danone and the International Union of Food workers (IUF) stresses that:

Measures concerning health, safety, working conditions and stress require perseverance and coherence and need to be sustained in the long term in order to bear fruit.

The agreement takes the definition of stress adopted by the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) which states that:

Stress occurs when there is imbalance between someone’s perception of the constraints due to work environment, and one’s perception of one’s own resources to cope with those constraints.

Danone states that it wants to include stress and psychosocial risks in its company health policy. The agreement sets a general framework that must be adapted to each country to prevent, detect, avoid, and treat cases of stress at work.

Medical surveillance and extension to external workers

A system of free health monitoring will be provided by independent doctors, prior to recruitment and regularly afterwards to employees. In case of serious danger, the employee will not be compelled to return to work until corrective action has been carried out.

Local management must implement all necessary measures to ensure that anyone working in a Danone plant is safe whether they are company employees, subcontracted or temporary workers. The group intends to extend these standards among its subcontractors and to involve their employees in safety training. The agreement also states that any increases in productivity should not be to the detriment of working conditions. Negotiation at national and local level

Both Danone and IUF pledge to:

encourage trade unions and management of affiliates and sites to enter into negotiations at national and/or local level, with a view to concluding agreements on issues of health and safety at work, and regularly to review those that already exist.

They also agree to promote specific consultation on all sites on these issues, and involve employees in this.

The agreement emphasises that the group must ensure that the health of Danone employees, temporary staff and subcontractors is not put in danger at work. It ensures that employees’ fundamental needs (hospitalisation, maternity care, medical consultations) are covered by local schemes and/or insurance co-financed by Danone companies and its employees, that are better, or at least equal in cost and quality, to those offered by other providers.

The agreement encourages a process of measuring stress at work if any is reported to local management. It provides for training to enable workers to cope with stressful situations, and also proposes the designation of counsellors for the employees.

Implementation of Danone-IUF agreements

This is the ninth agreement to be concluded by Danone and IUF at global level since 1988. Others, set out in a 2005 Danone report (276Kb PDF), include those signed on diversity and social dialogue.

Franck Riboud, Chairman and CEO of Danone said the agreement:

… fits perfectly with Danone’s dual commitment to business success and social progress, which has been inspiring us for the last 40 years.

The application of agreements between Danone and the IUF is the subject of an annual joint assessment by a Danone representative and an IUF representative. Ron Oswald, General Secretary of the IUF, said:

Our affiliates in each plant also ensure a permanent assessment of the agreement.

Commentary

This agreement is a milestone in social dialogue at a global level as it covers employees in the emerging countries, who represent more than half of Danone’s total 100,000 workforce, as well as external workers such as subcontractors’ employees and temporary workers. In a Danone press release the company says:

A clause will be included in contracts signed with employment agencies and subcontractors to make sure that these companies ensure medical monitoring of their employees.

Ron Oswald, in an interview for the European Industrial Relations Observatory (EIRO), added:

Stress is not only a European workers’ disease – it concerns all employees throughout the world because the production processes and work organisation issues that may create work-related stress are now a global phenomenon.

Frédéric Turlan, HERA

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