At Bonduelle, seasonal employment provides opportunity, not instability

At Bonduelle, seasonal employment provides opportunity, not instability

Eating seasonal vegetables benefits both our own health and that of the planet. Thanks to Bonduelle, which provides in-season, field-grown vegetables that are canned and frozen, it’s now possible to eat seasonal vegetables all year round! Although once they’re placed in cans or frozen, they can be eaten at absolutely any time, the fact remains that when we think of “seasonal vegetables” we often think of seasonal employment. By the nature of its industry, which is dictated by harvest times, Bonduelle employs numerous seasonal employees—they represent 17% of the Groups’ total workforce (full-time).

Bonduelle is conscious of the fact that seasonal employment is often associated with economic instability. As the Bonduelle Group is fully committed to supporting all of its personnel, it has developed responsible methods of ensuring that all its staff enjoy top-quality working conditions, while also retaining its seasonal workers and ensuring that its need for labor represents real opportunities for the areas from which it hires employees. Audrey Ciesla, HR Development Director for Europe at Bonduelle Frais Traiteur, describes the company’s approach.

Good working conditions—no matter the type of employment

Whether it involves protecting physical and mental health or preventing work-related illnesses, all individuals working for or with the Bonduelle Group enjoy a professional environment that guarantees their health and safety.

Maintaining the highest possible degree of employee well-being and ensuring optimum health and safety conditions at work are fundamental priorities for Bonduelle. For this reason, as part of the company’s “VegeGo!” project, the Group set itself an ambitious yet hugely significant target: to achieve a figure of 0 lost-time accidents by 2025 at the latest. This target covers all employees who work for the Group, regardless of the type of contract under which they are employed.

In order to achieve this goal, appropriate training is essential. The Bonduelle Group has put in place the STOP method, which was first created by DuPont de Nemours. This method, which is based on preventive observation, allows employees to incorporate safe behavior into their workplace environments, thus optimizing safety and reducing, to the point of eliminating, work-related injuries and illnesses. Employees are trained in methods that give them the awareness, tools, and motivation that they need in order to work in a safer manner. Those who have received this training can then transfer that knowledge to their colleagues, meaning that everyone can actively contribute to creating a safer workplace on a daily basis.

When they begin their job, all employees—including seasonal staff—are given training in their roles, which includes training in safety onsite and at their workstation. Safety guidelines are issued to the staff member, and they may also take additional training modules focusing on ergonomics, or on becoming a forklift driver, for example.

The issue of onsite safety is closely monitored by the Group; this is why guidelines have been provided for all staff. Management holds regular committee meetings, and the managers responsible for safety are constantly circulating best-practice guidelines. This level of organization has proven highly successful, with the number of lost-time accidents dropping from 24.39 accidents per million man-hours in 2010/11 to 7.43 in 2014/15 and 4.03 in 2015/16. There is still progress to be made, but the Group is well on the way to meeting its target of 0.

Mutual support: A win-win situation

The Bonduelle Group strives to retain its seasonal employees by organizing various initiatives for their benefit. For example, in the United States the Group provides training sessions based on instructional videos for employees with a poor command of English. In the same vein, programs aimed at seasonal workers without good knowledge of Italian are in place in Italy. In Hungary, a bus service is offered to seasonal workers, meaning that they don’t have to spend on transportation when they travel to work.

Bonduelle also provides support to seasonal employees through its policy of supplying competitive remuneration packages (fair rate for overtime hours, bonuses at the start and end of the season in Hungary, etc.) and by employment contracts that ensure their areas of work are compatible with those of other seasonal staff.

Thanks to these measures, in France the company boasts an employee-retention rate of 80%.

The benefits to the employees are clear, but maintaining this positive two-way relationship is also hugely important to the Group for several reasons. Being able to work with individuals who are already familiar with the Group’s processes, working environments, and corporate values, is evidence of quality, but it also, and most importantly, strengthens safety. With this in mind, each year when a seasonal worker is hired, they are again provided with training when they begin working, even if they have already worked in one of the Group’s facilities.

Fair hiring practices: Providing opportunity for all

As much as possible, Bonduelle strives to transform its need for temporary labor into a source of opportunity for workers. In France, the company uses simulation methods as part of its recruitment process, which allows it to hire employees based on their practical skills as well as on their experience. Candidates are tested in almost-real conditions for more than three hours, during which they must complete a simulated process by following instructions that are issued in real time. This ensures that all candidates are given an equal opportunity to prove their merit, even if they have never worked in the agrifood business.

Developing skills in employment regions

The Bonduelle Group is also committed to transforming its recruitment needs into opportunities for the areas from which it hires employees. One good example of this initiative is the Bonduelle plant in Estrées-Mons, France, which recruits 150-200 people for seasonal harvesting.

The facility takes part in the “Pass Emploi” scheme, which is organized by the local regional authority’s employment office, and which provides training for individuals who wish to obtain qualifications and employment. Selection of candidates is performed by the employment office, and the training is imparted by an agreed-upon company. The qualification that is obtained is proof that candidates have acquired a base level of knowledge and essential skills that are valued across all business sectors.

It’s clear that Bonduelle is doing its utmost to ensure that seasonal employment is becoming synonymous with opportunity rather than instability. The Group further attempts to stimulate regional economies by hiring new staff primarily from its pool of seasonal workers. In 2015/2016, 84% of workers in France hired under permanent contracts had previously been employed on a seasonal or temporary basis.