Adidas in Milan 2019

MILAN Adidas Italy faced a strike just ahead of the busy Christmas period.

A group of the company’s employees from Adidas’ Italian headquarters in Monza, Lombardy, protested on Wednesday, organizing a four-hour sit-in in front of the brand’s store in Milan’s central shopping thoroughfare Corso Vittorio Emanuele II.

The protest was sparked by news last week that 41 Adidas Italy workers would be let go due to a reorganization of the company’s European workforce affecting 500 employees. Of them 35 are based in Monza, four in Rome and two in Padua, in the Veneto region.

Reached on the phone, Matteo Moretti, general secretary of the trade union Filcams-Cgil Monza Brianza, said: “Adidas is a company with billions in revenues and according to a recent internal note 2019 should represent a ‘record year.’ This clashes with the company’s decision to reorganize its workforce.” He added the company hasn’t considered social security measures.

According to the trade union, Adidas is relocating some of its functions, including credit, finance, marketing and supply chain, to Porto, Portugal. “This is called delocalization and we’re stating that [the company] should deal with its workforce with a solidarity approach, at least at a European level.”

Adidas’ corporate headquarters in Herzogenaurach, Germany, declined to comment on specifics, including the number of jobs at stake. In a statement, the company said the changes in operational organization were part of an efficiency plan.

“We are continuously working as a company to become even better, faster and more efficient. This also means that we adapt our organizational structures and processes when and where necessary,” Adidas said.

The statement highlighted company investment, particularly on the digital side of the business, noting it is “making targeted investments in our strategic growth drivers, especially in our digital business, where we are looking for new talents.”

Adidas also said the size of its workforce was “slightly increasing” and that it expects that trend to continue. The firm said it employed almost 57,493 globally as of September, an increase of 1,467 from a year earlier.

According to the statement, the retail market continues to shift — with consumers increasingly shopping online — and that has prompted the brand’s structural changes. Examples cited were “increasing the use of digital tools for our wholesale partners and investing in our own e-commerce channels.”

“This is particularly reflected in the growth of our competence centers in Amsterdam, Zaragoza, Spain and Porto, Portugal,” it said.

Despite acknowledging that the decision has been taken from Germany’s headquarters, Moretti said managers from Adidas Italy have agreed to meet with the union on Monday. “We believe the meeting will not solve this issue, but it will allow us to open up a discussion between the employees and the company to map out the opportunity of a sustainable industrial plan going forward.”

Although Moretti did not provide details on the overall engagement of the strike, he said the protest was “good, also considering Adidas employees were not used to it.”

The meeting will kick off a 75-day negotiation between the company and the trade union, which said it is open to involve the Ministry of Economic Development should they not reach an agreement.

Reporting on financials for the third quarter last month, Adidas’ chief executive officer Kasper Rorsted said in a statement “2019 will be a record year, despite some challenges.” Revenues in the third quarter rose 9 percent to 6.41 billion euros, besting its forecasts.