Good employment practices Our people are at the heart of our success. We are proud of our well trained and highly motivated staff who work tirelessly every day to deliver a good product or contribute to the group in any other capacity. As a good employer we shoulder our responsibilities by ensuring that they can work safely, keep their know-how and expertise up to date and continue to develop.

As Cosun has more older employees than younger ones, we must invest in keeping them fit. Older employees are also remaining in the labour process for longer than in the past. When they retire, there must be enough qualified young people to fill the vacancies. Cosun is facing the challenge of having to recruit enough qualified young people and train them further within the organisation. Figure 9 shows that the number of permanent FTEs has fallen very slightly in recent years. The number of temporary workers, by contrast, has risen.

All members of staff must keep their knowledge and expertise up to date, even if they have been working for Cosun for many years. Some training courses are compulsory, such as those on hygiene regulations, safety and new equipment. Others are provided to keep skills at the required level or to acquire new knowledge. Internally, the staff are also offered opportunities to take additional courses to qualify for other positions. We have set up an intranet site to publicise these courses and make them more accessible. The staff can learn about all the internal courses and register their interest on the site. The average number of training days per FTE is about three working days per annum.

Cosun takes on students as trainees every year to carry out practical internships or research projects. In 2016 there were 118 in total, all at Dutch sites. Three-quarters of the students are at university or vocational college. At Cosun, they have an opportunity to gain practical experience in their specialisation under the supervision of experienced professionals.

Safety at work is a permanent matter of concern. Cosun’s overall safety record was slightly better in 2016 than in the previous year (2016 index: 21) but the number of lost time incidents and accidents is still too high. Safety at work is expressed as an index based on the number of lost time incidents reported per 1,000 FTEs. Cosun’s target for 2017 is to have fewer than 6.4 registered incidents based on the health, safety and environmental checklist for contractors (VCA). This means we must all make an extra effort to be even more aware of unsafe situations, to hold each other responsible for unsafe conduct and to ensure strict observance of the safety rules.

Cosun has been using the VCA index to measure the injury frequency (IF) since 2017. The index is calculated as IF = A x 1,000,000/t, where A = the number of incidents that led to lost time or absenteeism in one year, and t = the total number of hours worked – based on all permanent and temporary staff at the location – in the same year. The index does not take account of incidents involving external parties working on contract at a location. Only incidents that lead to the loss of at least a whole working day immediately after the day on which the incident occurred are counted. The target for 2017 is an IF of less than 6.4. The figure in 2016 had been 9.8.

Safety experts at the business groups work with special programmes to increase safety at work. Although the approach differs from one programme to another, there are many similarities. They all give the highest priority to involving the staff directly in their own safety. All members of staff receive safety training courses and safety instructions. But accidents are still not yet a thing of the past. Many measures have been taken, especially at production sites, to increase safety and make staff more aware of how they themselves can increase it. By themselves, changes in the structure and equipment are not enough. The Safety, Health and Environment component of the TPM programme gives high priority to the safety and safe conduct of all members of staff.
Total number of lost time accidents at Cosun business groups per 1,000 employees.
Rate of sickness absence at the Cosun business groups, excluding maternity leave.
Sickness absenteeism has been steadily increasing for several years. In 2015 the rate had been 3.9%, in 2016 it was 4.0%. In comparison with the average sickness absenteeism rate in the industry (2015: 4.8%, source: Statistics Netherlands) this is relatively low. We cannot say with certainty whether the steady upward trend is related to the increase in the average age of the staff.

With a view to the ageing workforce and the higher retirement age, the two business groups with the most members of staff, Aviko and Suiker Unie, launched fitness programmes for their employees some years ago. Such programmes cost money, but if the investments are weighed up against the cost of long-term sickness absenteeism, it is money well spent. To say nothing of the health benefits for the participants.

Several business groups employ people with a disability or a weak position on the labour market. These employees need more attention and sometimes more assistance than others. Our aim is to coach them so that they can eventually carry out their duties independently. It is sometimes a matter of trial and error before young disabled people adjust to working at Cosun, but when they do both sides are very pleased with the results. Diversity in terms of gender balance and socio-cultural background is not a decisive factor in the recruitment procedure or in internal career development. The acid test is the right person in the right place. There was a shift in the gender balance in favour of women in 2016. They now account for 23% of the total workforce.