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Unions building global power against attacks by Crown Holdings

26 February, 2014Trade unions from Canada, France, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey and UK met on 25 February in Switzerland to confront the anti-union strategy of Crown Holdings, an American multinational packaging company.

The meeting was convened by IndustriALL, whose affiliates represent 50 million workers and was joined by IndustriALL’s sister organizations, UNI Global Union representing graphical and packaging sector workers and the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers' Associations (IUF) representing workers at the major food and beverage companies that are major customers of Crown Holdings.

Despite doubling its profits in 2012, Crown is demanding a permanent lower wage scale and 42% pay cut for new-hires in its plant located in Toronto where IndustriALL affiliate, the United Steelworkers (USW), represents workers. The demand forced workers to go on strike in September 2013 after a decade of sacrifices that workers in North America made to restore the company to profitability. At the same time, Crown provided lucrative executive pay and pension packages to its top executives.

The USW is conducting an active campaign called Take-Backs No More with a website – www.takebacksnomore.ca

Likewise in Turkey, IndustriALL affiliate United Metalworkers’ Union Birlesik Metal-Is is campaigning to obtain union recognition and improve working conditions at two Crown plants located in the cities of Izmit and Osmaniye. However Crown management has stalled the process of recognition even though Ministry of Labor already issued a certificate giving legitimacy to Birlesik Metal-Is to become bargaining partner. The case is still pending at the Court of Appeals, and workers at Crown cannot enjoy their fundamental rights.

The Geneva meeting included comprehensive reports from the trade unions in Europe that outlined substantial decline in the quality of labor relations and the lack of company transparency.  European participants shared concerns about the future of some of the operations in Europe and the reluctance of Crown to share any information about possible plant closures. The participants outlined an action plan to escalate the campaign against Crown. 

IndustriALL is sending a letter to Crown CEO John Conway with an offer for an immediate meeting to discuss and resolve the current problems.

Unions and global union federations also decided to mobilize at Crown’s upcoming shareholders’ meeting  and contact Crown’s major customers worldwide, particularly in food and beverage sectors through support and solidarity provided by the IUF.

“Our meeting has shown clear and strong determination of our global union family to build a genuine power at Crown operations worldwide” said Kemal Özkan, Assistant General Secretary of IndustriALL Global Union. “Our objective is to make Crown a more socially responsible company.”