Crown Holdings Workers Act Globally to Confront Anti-Union Practices

TORONTO, June 27, 2014 /CNW/ - European unions and European Works Council (EWC) members are denouncing anti-union actions in Turkey and Canada by Crown Holdings, one of the largest metal packaging companies in the world.

EWCs are mandated under European law to serve as advisory committees to employers in the EU. EWC members are elected by workers, and employers are required by law to meet and consult with the councils.

Following a meeting with Crown Holdings, EWC union members have released a statement calling on Crown to begin "meaningful discussion" to resolve conflicts with its unionized workers in Turkey and Canada.

"We the workers' representatives of the European Works Council wish to state that the treatment of Crown employees anywhere in the world should be of the highest standard with respect of both national and international conventions and that the principle of freedom of association is at the core of any such values along with the right to collective bargaining, and the present treatment by Crown of our colleagues in Turkey and Canada is of concern to all Crown employees and not acceptable to the EWC," the statement reads.

The statement was shared with the United Steelworkers (USW), which represents Crown workers in Toronto who have been forced on strike by the company for more than nine months.

At the EWC meeting, European union members were persistent in demanding an end to Crown's anti-union behaviour at operations outside Europe, even as Crown's management balked at discussing the issue.

EWC members expressed concern that U.S.-based Crown would bring its anti-union practices to Europe, according to a representative of Unite, the United Kingdom union, who observed the meeting.  

The EWC union members vowed to expose Crown's anti-union activities to all of the company's European operations. They also pledged to build support for an international campaign headed by global labour federation IndustriALL to fight Crown's anti-union behaviour throughout its operations. Two other global union federations, the International Union of Foodworkers (IUF) and Uni-Global also are supporting the campaign.

The USW and IndustriALL have conducted two protests at Crown's European headquarters in Switzerland, and striking Steelworkers have met with Crown's unionized workers in Turkey, the U.K., Italy and France. Two Crown directors reside in Switzerland.

IndustriALL and the IUF have contacted Crown Holdings' major customers, asking them to examine their procurement policies, given the federations' allegations of Crown's serious violations of the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. The guidelines set principles and standards for responsible business conduct for companies operating from OECD member countries, including Turkey and Canada. Crown's global customers include Molson, Labatt, Nestle, Pepsi-Cola, Proctor and Gamble, Heineken and Heinz among others.

Steelworkers at Crown's Toronto operations have been on strike since September 2013, after the company demanded draconian cuts in wages and elimination of the union's physical presence from the workplace.

Turkey's Metal-IS union alleges Crown engaged in numerous tactics to delay union recognition for over a year after 80% of workers signed cards supporting the union at two plants. It was only after a court ruling that Crown agreed to negotiate, but soon after it fired four union members, allegedly for supporting the union. Crown is now aggressively pressuring workers to resign union membership at both plants.

Last week the USW met with union officials and Crown workers in Turkey.

For further information on the global campaign against Crown Holdings, see www.takebacksnomore.ca.

SOURCE United Steelworkers (USW)

For further information: Joe Drexler, USW Strategic Campaigns, 416-544-6009, 416-434-7907, jdrexler@usw.ca; Denis St. Pierre, USW Communications, 416-544-5990, 647-522-1630, dstpierre@usw.ca