TORONTO, April, 16 2015 /CNW/ - Workers forced on strike over 19 months ago in Toronto by giant US-based can-maker Crown Holdings, Inc. (CCK) are denouncing the company's continued lack of accountability to its shareholders.
Shareholders should question Crown's surprise move of its 2015 AGM to Monterrey, Mexico, the corporation's failure to disclose the involvement of its CEO and a company director in a major shareholder class action, as well as the escalating costs of the ongoing labour dispute in Toronto, say striking members of the United Steelworkers (USW).
Crown has held its AGM at its corporate headquarters in Philadelphia for at least the last 12 years, according to documents on file with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission. At the 2014 AGM, Crown CEO John Conway stunned shareholders with his bizarre refusal to answer their questions, including those from union members present at the meeting.
"By moving its AGM to Mexico, Crown clearly wants to discourage shareholders from travelling to the meeting to ask more questions about why the company has failed to settle a 19-month strike," said Ken Neumann, USW National Director.
Crown's annual report has revealed up to $21 million in production relocation costs attributable to the strike in 2014 alone – the equivalent of $175,000 per striking worker, or three times the workers' average yearly salary. Extrapolated over the 19 months of the strike, the cost to Crown shareholders could be as high as $33 million.
"Shareholders should be asking serious questions about the costs incurred by the company to attack and get rid of workers at one of its most productive facilities," Neumann said.
"Some shareholders may be discouraged from making the trip to Mexico to ask these questions, but we will not be. Crown can run, but it can't hide," he said.
"Crown may also have retreated to Mexico to avoid questions relating to the lengthy Constar IPO litigation that resulted in a settlement of $23.5 million in 2013," added Neumann.
For nearly 10 years, CEO John Conway and director William Little faced serious allegations of misrepresentation in a securities class action. Following the spin-off of Constar by Crown in 2002, Constar shareholders claimed Conway and Little, along with Crown and others, misrepresented the business plan and financial outlook of Constar in the prospectus, causing shares of Constar to plummet from $12 at offering to $5 a few months later.
"Crown shareholders should demand to know why Conway and Little were up for re-election as Crown directors year after year without accounting for the massive losses experienced by shareholders of a former Crown subsidiary they also directed," Neumann said.
Crown is holding its 2015 AGM on April 23 in Monterrey, at the headquarters of its recently acquired Mexican subsidiary (formerly EMPAQUE).
The lengthy strike in Toronto has galvanized support among labour unions in Canada and around the world. The Canadian Labour Congress, representing 3.3 million workers, recently announced a nation-wide boycott of Crown cans. Elsewhere, the gravity of Crown's anti-union actions have resulted in a global campaign involving unions at Crown plants in the United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, France, Turkey, Colombia and Ghana.
The USW is committed to working with Los Mineros, Mexico's most important democratic union, to ensure that Mexican workers will receive fair treatment at the recently acquired plant in Monterrey and elsewhere in the country.
The USW is talking with shareholders and is advocating a 'No' vote on the current slate of what the union considers "rubberstamp directors," the majority of whom are retired but collect over $200,000 for attending a few meetings per year.
For more information on the boycott of Crown cans and the global campaign against the company, including pictures and videos, see www.bottlesnotcans.ca.
SOURCE United Steelworkers (USW)
For further information: Ken Neumann, USW National Director, 416-544-5951; Joe Drexler, USW Strategic Campaigns, 416-544-6009, 416-434-7907, [email protected]; Bob Gallagher, USW Communications, 416-544-5966, 416-434-2221, [email protected]