FOLLOWING Monday’s report that the eurozone contracted by 0.6% in the last three months of 2012, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) followed suit, revealing yesterday that it also contracted in the same quarter.
The Paris-based think-tank said there was a 0.2% contraction across its 34 member states – the first quarterly decline for the OECD group of ‘rich’ countries since the beginning of 2009.
The slump is gaining traction and speeding up, with ‘negative growth’ and rising unemployment and inflation.
As the OECD figures came out, French food and drink company Danone announced it will cut 900 jobs, blaming the weakness in southern European economies for a collapse in sales.
The owner of Activia yogurt and Evian bottled water reported sales in Europe fell 3% following a ‘severe deterioration’ in consumer demand.
The firm said it plans to cut 900 management and administrative positions across 26 European countries.
‘2013 will be a year of transition, with vigorous development in business in our growth markets and a drive to strengthen operations in Europe,’ said chairman and chief executive Franck Riboud in a statement.
The world’s biggest maker of yogurts predicted its profit margins would fall again this year, with a negative trend for demand in Europe and prices of raw materials staying high.
The company is heavily exposed to European economies, with about 38% of its sales coming from western Europe.
Sales at its Spanish dairy division were particularly weak.
In Spain, where there is currently 26% unemployment, riot police attacked striking Iberia airline cabin crew and baggage handlers with tear gas and batons on Monday.
Willie Walsh, chairman of IAG, the airline’s parent company since its merger with British Airways, has announced plans to sack 3,800 workers.
Workers on the picket lines at the terminal used by Iberia and BA at Madrid’s Barajas airport, carried banners saying ‘They have sold us to pirates’.
Unions blamed the strike directly on Walsh, who chairs the IAG holding company and faced similar conflict with unions at BA four years ago.
They are on strike throughout this week and are to hold a total of 15 strike days in February and March.
Union officials said Iberia’s Spanish management are puppets whose strings are pulled by Walsh.
The strike is by cabin crew and ground staff unions representing more than 90% of the workforce.
Iberia wants to sack 3,800 of its 18,000 employees and on 12 February announced a 30-day deadline for the unions to agree to a 15% cut in capacity, including on long-haul routes to Latin America.
Gabriel Mocho, of the International Transport Workers’ Federation, said: ‘The fingerprints of Willie Walsh are visible in the breakdown in talks that led to this declaration.
‘Orders from above have clearly denied Iberia the freedom to achieve a joint negotiated plan with unions to secure a profitable future for the airline.
‘Willie Walsh seems to once again be following the same plan as he did at BA. Set the bar impossibly high. Torpedo any agreements that are reached. Create maximum discord.’