Unilever’s decision to move its headquarters to Rotterdam is a damning indictment on the UK’s toothless takeover laws which do nothing to prevent asset-stripping takeovers by predatory vulture capitalists, Britain’s largest union Unite said today (Thursday 15 March).

Unite understands that a motivating factor in the move to Rotterdam were Dutch corporate laws which allow Netherlands-incorporated companies to adopt ‎’poison pill’ defences to thwart hostile takeovers. Dutch takeover laws also mean that workforce, national and social interests are taken into account rather than just shareholder interest.

Unilever’s Rotterdam move comes amid Melrose’s debt-laden takeover bid for GKN which if successful will see £1.4 billion of debt loaded onto the manufacturing company. Unite is fearful that Melrose will sell parts of the company off piecemeal to the highest bidder resulting in UK jobs being axed and shipped overseas.

Unite, along with politicians from across the political divide, is demanding that the business secretary Greg Clark intervenes and blocks the Melrose bid.

Unite national officer for Unilever Rhys McCarthy said: “Unilever’s headquarter move to Rotterdam is a damning indictment on the UK’s toothless takeover laws which leave decent employers fighting predatory takeovers by vulture capitalists with one hand tied behind their back.

“Theresa May has talked about toughening up rules to stop aggressive asset-stripping takeovers, but done little to nothing. Her continued inaction could lead to more companies like Unilever fleeing overseas and decent UK employers falling prey to vulture capitalists against the national interest.

“We need to toughen up UK takeover rules to support long term growth and stop workforce, national and social interests being sacrificed on the altar of short-term asset-strippers.

“Unite will be in dialogue with Unilever over the coming days to secure assurances on UK jobs.”


For further information please contact the Unite press office on 020 3371 2065 or Unite head of media and campaigns Alex Flynn on 020 3371 2066 or 07967 665869.

Notes to editors

Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.