22-month USW strike ends in agreement with Crown in Toronto

23.07.2015

American beer can giant Crown has damaged the lives of IndustriALL Global Union members in Canada, Turkey and Ghana over the last two years. USW members in Toronto voted on 19 July to accept a new collective agreement and end their determined 22-month strike.

Workers will finally go back to work after a vicious attack on their employment conditions forced the 120 members of USW Local 9176 out on strike in September 2013.

A tentative agreement was reached on 8 July when the company dropped its intransigent condition that the 34 leading union supporters could not have their jobs back even after a settlement is reached.

IndustriALL Global Union assistant general secretary Kemal Özkan celebrated the strength of the strike:

Our sisters and brothers finally go back to work by standing strong against the attempts to eliminate the union. Congratulations! We will not forget Crown’s shameful union busting attempts.

Crown achieved double profits in 2012 and hailed the Toronto Crown Metal Packaging factory as its best site in North America. Then told workers there that their salaries and conditions were being cut dramatically, and effectively the company was attempting to destroy the union.

The company was allowed to hire contract replacement workers during the strike. The USW criticized the Ontario government for failing to direct binding arbitration.

“These men and women can return to work with their heads held high. They are going back shoulder-to-shoulder, with their union and their principles intact,” said Marty Warren, USW Ontario Director.

"Clearly, this strike demonstrates the pressing need for amendments to the Labour Relations Act that would provide for binding arbitration in long and difficult strikes and would impose a ban on the use of replacement workers. We urge the Liberal government to take the necessary steps through the current labour law review process to commit to those reforms," Warren added.

The battle against union busting by Crown in Turkey is continuing. IndustriALL affiliate Birlesik Metal-Is has been forced to lodge numerous legal complaints and the labour court has ruled that almost all workers sacked by Crown were sacked for joining the union. One of the managers has been convicted with a six-month prison sentence, although the sentence has been suspended. Pepsi and Coca-Cola are conducting audits into the plant.

IndustriALL’s Ghanaian affiliate ICU had to mobilize a campaign in order to force Crown to negotiate redundancies of its members this year. ICU Deputy General Secretary Emmanue Benimah reports: “Crown has now sold up and left Ghana. We were able to negotiate a Memorandum of Understanding with the company that brought our members proper redundancy payments, but this was only possible once we put them under great pressure.”