BARCELONA: HP's annual European Discover event has plonked itself down in Barcelona this year and, like previous Discover events, it is being served with a side order of drama.
While in 2011 the firm was dealing with the aftermath of Leo Apotheker's short-lived reign and in 2012 it had to minimise the fallout from the Autonomy accounting scandal, in 2013 the issue is protesting employees who are angry at job cuts.
Journalists were bussed in around the back of the event, which had the side-effect of hiding the protesters from view, but social media channels showed the Spanish workers camped outside the main entrance to the event venue.
HP insisted that the route in for journalists was about providing quicker access to the event, rather than any attempt to hide the protestors from view. After a 20-minute wander to find the site where the protestors were, these claims appear to have some merit. What was disappointing, though, was the discovery that by 3.30pm (once we had a break in our schedule) all the protesters had gone. Come on hombres, make it 9-5 at least.
A noisy protest outside its annual event in Europe is not what HP would have wanted, but it did issue a statement acknowledging the issues being protested and stressed that many jobs were not being cut, but changed or reallocated.
"HP has a long track record of good social dialogue with its employees and social partners through its European Works Council. HP's workforce management plans in EMEA are part of [the] global multi-year productivity initiative that was announced on 23 May 2012," the firm noted.
"The restructuring plan is designed to deliver a more agile and responsive business model in the region, streamlining processes, advancing innovation and creating efficiencies for the benefit of customers, shareholders and employees. HP has a proud history of investing in Spain and continues to be committed to the success of the business here."
The protests in Spain will no doubt be welcomed in solidarity by UK employees that are being affected by job cuts and changes in several locations, with a total of 1,124 jobs said to be going in the cuts according to trade union Unite, although HP has disputed the accuracy of its reports.
Nevertheless, the protesters will hope that their rally raises the issue of job cuts, which is an especially painful topic in Spain at present and comes after HP posted $1.4bn in profits for the last quarter.
Still, it wouldn't be HP Discover without a bit of drama.
By V3's Dan Worth, who's never crossed a picket line
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