H&M

MILAN – H&M Hennes & Mauritz AB’s Italian workers are rising up against the company. Last month, the Swedish fast-fashion giant revealed the closure of four stores in Italy and has started the formal procedure for the dismissal of 89 employees. For this reason, workers decided to strike on June 10.

According to a statement released by the UILTuCS Lombardia trade union on Thursday, employees will gather and protest in front of the Milanese flagship in central Piazza San Bibila, which is one of the four units planned to be shut down by the company. The other stores are located in Corso Buenos Aires in Milan and in the cities of Cremona and Mestre.

“We find the dismissal absolutely unfair,” said UILTuCS Lombardia general secretary Michele Tamburrelli, underscoring how the company doesn’t have any financial issue motivating the procedure.

In 2016, H&M group’s sales including VAT, converted into Swedish krona, increased 6 percent to 222.87 billion kronor, or $25.5 billion at current exchange. In the first quarter of 2017, the group’s total sales including VAT rose 7 percent to 54.4 billion kronor, or $6.2 billion.

In the statement, the dismissal was defined as a “clear attempt to [hire younger] employees while further increasing the [company’s] profits.” In addition, the note addressed the “reckless usage of Jobs on Call,” stressing how 30 percent of the company’s employees have this kind of contract, while the 89 workers who are going to be fired have permanent contracts.

“This situation is even more unpleasant if we consider that the company continues to flaunt its values of  ‘fundamental respect for each individual and include a firm belief in our people,’” reads the statement, quoting the words used by H&M’s chief executive officer Karl-Johan Persson in “The H&M Way” online manifesto.

Tamburrelli said around 100 employees are expected to join the protest on Saturday and explained that the goal of the strike is “to influence the company’s decision and try to discontinue this procedure of dismissal.”

“H&M respects the employees and trade unions’ right of (…) taking part in legal strikes,” replied H&M’s Italian spokeswoman Giulia Salinari. “H&M believes in people and has immediately started to find the best solutions for its employees, as required by the law and in line with its own internal policies and values,” added Salinari, explaining how the company has started a dialogue with the trade unions involved at the beginning of this process. She also mentioned relocation as one of the alternatives to be offered to the employees, in order “to guarantee the maximum number of jobs.”

“It’s a complex procedure,” she continued, adding that H&M provided a “wide list of available jobs” to evaluate. On the other hand, Tamburrelli replied that the number of positions offered are not enough to absorb all 89 employees.

Asked about the flagships, Salinari underscored the closures have to be addressed to the “economical sustainability of these specific stores.”

“Retail is in constant evolution and the company has to adapt to the changes,” she said, adding that the firm will continue to expand in Italy, “contributing to the creation of new jobs.”

Since January, H&M has employed 425 new staff members, opening five new units in the country. These include a new flagship in Corso Buenos Aires, a few steps away from the brand’s door that has been shut down. “Our goal is to be in the best spots,” said Salinari, addressing the improved visibility and traffic of the new unit.

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