Why Adidas Employees Staged a Protest Outside the Brand’s Milan Store

A group of employees from Adidas’ Italian headquarters staged a protest on Wednesday in front of the brand’s Milan store, which is located in the busy shopping thoroughfare known as Corso Vittorio Emanuele II.

The protest followed an announcement by Adidas Italy on Dec. 13 that 41 workers in the country would face layoffs due to a reorganization of its European workforce affecting 500 employees. Of these, 35 are based in Monza, four in Rome and two in Padua in the Veneto region.

According to trade union Filcams-Cgil Monza Brianza, Adidas is relocating some of its functions — including credit, finance, marketing and supply chain — to Porto, Portugal.

“This is delocalization, and we’re stating that [the company] should deal with its workforce in a more supportive way,” said trade union general secretary Matteo Moretti, “Adidas is a company with billions in revenues.”

Moretti said managers from Adidas Italy have now agreed to meet with the union on Dec. 23. “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 discuss a sustainable plan,” he said. 

The Monday meeting will start a 75-day negotiation process. Filcams said it could potentially involve the Ministry of Economic Development should the parties not reach an agreement.

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.

Adidas employees in Milan stage a protest over dismissals, Dec. 18 2019
Adidas employees in Milan stage a protest over dismissals, Dec. 18, 2019.
CREDIT: Shutterstock

“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,” they 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.”

It also said that the number of Adidas employees was “slightly increasing,” a trend it expected to continue. It provided figures comparing September 2019 stats to the same period a year ago, showing an increase of 1,467 employees, from 56,026 to 57,493 globally.

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,” the statement said.

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

Last month, Adidas announced it was ending its high-tech robot-staffed Speedfactory operations in Ansbach, Germany, and Atlanta. The company said that the technology would not be abandoned but used to produce sneakers at two suppliers in Asia.

Third-quarter revenues  rose 9% to 6.41 billion euros ($7.1 billion), with a 6% gain for Adidas and 2% at Reebok. Despite pressure on margins due to increased operating costs, Adidas predicted net income will rise from 10% to 14% by the end of 2019.

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