17 December, 2015Union representatives of workers at Europe’s biggest packaging company, Smurfit Kappa established a trade union alliance on 14 December.
Meeting in Warsaw, Poland, the affiliated unions of UNI Europa, UNI Global and IndustriALL Global Union in 10 countries shared experiences and strategies on 13-14 December. The company employs around 40,000 workers worldwide and is growing aggressively.
Working conditions differ from fairly good in Sweden and Denmark, to the malpractice of ‘Pacto Colectivos’ in Colombia, whereby the company offers higher wages to all workers who leave the union.
In Poland, UNI’s affiliate ZZP has successfully organized the five Smurfit Kappa plants in the country. While the union is growing and progressing into good dialogue with the company, workers still complain of highly flexible hours, punitive distribution of overtime, and gender discrimination.
The group of unions had requested to meet with Polish management of Smurfit Kappa while in Warsaw, and to conduct a plant visit. However the company refused the request. IndustriALL and UNI then sent a joint letter stating:
“On behalf of all the unions who attended the Warsaw meeting, we therefore urge you again strongly to enter into dialogue with the Smurfit Kappa Trade Union Alliance.”
Simon Dubbins, Chair of UNI Europa’s Graphical section told the meeting:
“As unions in the sector, we have established 55 European Works Councils of the 70 companies. We use all of these platforms for union exchange, but Smurfit Kappa is vital as it sets the standard for the sector.”
IndustriALL Global Union Assistant General Secretary Kemal Özkan said:
“The IndustriALL and UNI trade union families both believe in trade union networks inside key companies. Together we will demand dialogue and respect from Smurfit Kappa for all its workers worldwide.”