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Turkey: Strike at Mayr-Melnhof continues as management refuses to meet

10.08.2018

IndustriALL Global Union today visited the picket line of a MM Süperpak Ambalaj factory in Izmir, Turkey, where workers are on their 52nd day of strike action. Management shows bad faith by refusing to meet while pressurizing union members in Gaziantep to quit the union.

MM Süperpak Ambalaj is a subsidiary of Austrian-based Mayr-Melnhof, with operations in Izmir, Karaman and Gaziantep. Around 250 workers from IndustriALL affiliate, Selüloz-İş have been on strike since rejecting a pay offer of zero wage rise on 20 June.

Collective bargaining negotiations at the three plants started on January 26 for the 2018-19 period. Of the 74 articles in the CBA, 50 were agreed. However, money remains the main conflict. The union demanded a 475 Turkish Lira wage increase, while previous management offered around TL 300. However new management offered zero increase in the last round. Before striking, the union made a final compromise of TL 350, which management refused.

In a letter to management of Mayr-Melnhof, IndustriALL general secretary Valter Sanches said:

“The union is committed to finding a solution in bargaining with the employer while the local management constantly refuses to enter into negotiations to solve the conflict.

“IndustriALL Global Union calls on Mayr-Melnhof Packaging International GmbH to intervene at Superpak management to ensure good-faith bargaining with the union of Seluloz-Is.”

The inflation rate is Turkey is currently above 15 per cent, meaning that a zero per cent wage increase amounts to a significant pay cut. The fall in the Lira has also substantially lowered the cost of doing business in the country for companies based abroad. Wage levels are slightly higher than legal minimum wage, at around US $350.

IndustriALL is cooperating with sister international, the IUF to contact Mayr-Melnhof’s primary customers.

Today workers at the factory in Torbalı, outside Izmir, endured 39 degree heat to express their determination. They were joined by representatives from many local unions, including IndustriALL affiliates Deriteks and Teksif. Trucks driving through the industrial zone hooted their support as workers chanted slogans, such as “Long live global solidarity”, and “Resistance brings victory”.

Speaking at the picket line, IndustriALL assistant general secretary Kemal Özkan said:

“Your struggle is just, and we support you. We have made the head office in Austria aware of what is happening here. The resolution of this dispute is entirely in their hands.

“Your struggle is not just a struggle for a fair wage increase, but for a respectful collective bargaining process. We are making the company’s customers around the world aware of their destructive practice. We will challenge the company wherever we find them.

“You will win as long as you hold onto your unity. We are strong: our class and our society is behind us because our cause is just.”

Founded over 100 years ago, the Mayr-Melnhof Group is a manufacturer of carton board with 37 production locations in 15 countries  in Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, Latin America and Asia, and is listed on the Vienna stock exchange. The group employs around 10,000 people.

Mayr-Melnhof is known for anti-labour practices. In 2012, the company announced the closure of a factory in Liverpool, United Kingdom, affecting 109 Unite members, without respecting the legal requirement of a 90-day consultation period. This resulted in the first lock out in the British paper and printing industry for over 50 years. The European works council initiated legal proceedings as the company violated information and consultation rights over a plant closure in Gunskirchen, Austria and the acquisition of seven French sites.