Holcim is a global company employing some 80,000 people, with production sites in around 70 countries. In 2010, Holcim recorded sales of over 21 billion Swiss francs. Holcim’s core businesses include the manufacture and distribution of cement, and the production, processing and distribution of aggregates (crushed stone, gravel and sand), ready-mix concrete and asphalt. It is currently the second largest cement manufacturer in the world, just behind Lafarge.
Holcim’s strategy is to increase the share of cement production in the emerging markets of Eastern Europe, Southeast Asia and Latin America in order to gain market leadership.
In Western Europe and the United States Holcim invested mainly along the production line in order to secure the supply and distribution channels (sand and gravel extraction, concrete production). This expansion occurred mainly through acquisitions of existing local firms. Within five years, sales doubled and almost exactly the number of employees has increased from 50,000 in 2002 to 90,000 in 2007.
Only the global economic crisis has slowed the group’s 2008 sales figures. Holcim reacted with radical staff cuts and restructuring activities in particular those countries that were heavily affected by the housing crisis and the subsequent decline in construction activity, such as the USA and Spain. In Europe and the United States three cement plants and several concrete plants were closed. In 2008, net 6 percent of jobs were cut. On a comparable basis, excluding the acquisitions of new works, but 9.9 percent of all jobs were cut.
2005 Holcim entered into a strategic alliance with Gujarat Ambuja Cements to participate in the growth market of India, making a public purchase offer to the shareholders of The Associated Cement Companies (ACC) and Ambuja Cement Eastern. In the same year, Holcim acquired Aggregate Industries, thus entering the UK market and strengthening its aggregates and ready-mix concrete businesses in North America.
2008 Holcim became the single biggest shareholder of Huaxin Cement Co. Ltd., the Group’s strategic partner in China, and now holds a 39.9 percent stake in the company.
2009 Holcim expanded its Australian business through the acquisition of Cemex Australia, now Holcim Australia, a company with countrywide operations in the aggregates, ready-mix concrete and concrete products business.
The name of the Group was changed from “Holderbank” Financière Glaris Ltd. to Holcim Ltd in May 2001.
In most Western European countries, union density in the cement industry is relatively high. Almost everywhere workers are protected by collective agreements. This may be the most important reason why social dialogue works quite well in Holcim. Since 1996, on the basis of the relevant EU Directive, exists a European Works Council (Holcim Forum).
Trade unions and NGOs in Latin America and in India accuse Holcim to replace deliberately and systematically contractually secured employees by contract workers in order to reduce wages and labor costs.
Video on contract labour in India in French: http://labouredu.blogspot.com/2011/04/salaries-temporaires.html