Canadian Unions Caution Onex Over Jeld-Wen Acquisition

TORONTO AND OTTAWA, Sept. 30, 2011 /CNW/ - Two of Canada's largest trade unions are warning Onex chief executive Gerry Schwartz of potential pitfalls of an acquisition of global manufacturer Jeld-Wen.

Onex, one of Canada's largest private equity firms, should be wary of acquiring a foreign corporation accused of anti-labour, union-busting behaviour, say Ken Neumann, United Steelworkers (USW) National Director for Canada, and Dave Coles, Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union (CEP) President.

In a joint letter to Schwartz, Neumann and Coles raise serious concerns about Jeld-Wen, a U.S.-based manufacturer of doors and windows.

In August, Onex offered to take a 58% stake in Jeld-Wen at a cost of $864 million.

Australia's Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) has accused Jeld-Wen of creating a race to the bottom of the economic ladder and forcing workers to strike.

Jeld-Wen's Australian workers are paid wages below that of other manufacturing workers. Recently, 200 Jeld-Wen workers were forced into a three-week strike after attempting to secure wage increases above the inflation rate. With labour unrest expected to continue, the CFMEU is calling for a global campaign against Jeld-Wen.

"It is hard to believe that Jeld-Wen would force a major strike in Australia, one of its most successful markets, when it is trying to convince potential buyers of bonds to invest in the company," says Ken Neumann.

The USW-CEP joint letter points out that trade union pension funds worth billions are managed by some of North America's largest investment funds.

"We want Onex and Jeld-Wen to know that we are in full support of the CFMEU and will be alerting trade unions throughout North America about the labour dispute in Australia," Dave Coles says. "Trade unions do not want funds invested for retirees to be used to bust unions."

Neumann and Coles are vice-presidents of the International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions (ICEM) and jointly chair the ICEM North America Region. ICEM affiliates represent 20 million workers worldwide.

SOURCE United Steelworkers (USW)

For further information:

Ken Neumann, National Director for Canada, USW, 416-544-5950;
Dave Coles, President, CEP, 613-299-5628;
Joe Drexler, USW Strategic Campaigns, 416-544-6009, jdrexler@usw.ca.


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