Kicking the can: Strikers out 14 months against Crown Holdings

At Crown Holdings European Headquarters in Baar, Switzerland. Photo from IndustriALL Global Union.
At Crown Holdings European Headquarters in Baar, Switzerland. Photo from IndustriALL Global Union.

By Gerard Di Trolio

After 14 months off the job and little attention, USW Local 9176 members on strike at Crown Holdings’ factory in Toronto have taken their message to the airwaves as part of the “Take Backs No More” campaign. USW launched a radio ad campaign in mid October encouraging people to buy their beer in bottles and not in aluminium cans which are manufactured at the Crown Holdings plant.

“We’re running [the radio ads] during morning drive time when people are stuck in traffic in Toronto,” says USW’s head of Strategic Campaigns Joe Drexler. “We’ve done the demographic research to be able to target beer drinkers.”

The ads will be running again the week of December 13, when the USW plans a day of action with leafleting and other public displays of support.

Crown Holdings demands are harsh. They are expecting the strikers to accept pay cuts of 33 per cent. A two tier wage system would be imposed on new hires, and pensions would be turned into defined contribution from the existing defined benefit pensions.

USW has also called for a boycott of Carnival Cruises as their CEO, Arnold Donald, sits on the Board of Directors for Crown Holdings. There has also been significant global solidarity work with unions in Germany, the U.K., U.S., and Turkey who have all had confrontations with Crown Holdings management over bargaining and union activity.

USW’s call for a blanket boycott of canned beer internationally also has a secondary effect on other aluminium can manufacturers. A sustained boycott acts as a deterrent against other companies from taking the same approach to their workers.

Crown Holdings has been intransigent when it comes to negotiations at their Toronto plant. Local 9176 have filed a claim of bad faith against the company which will be heard at a labour board hearing in early December.

The length of the strike and the demands of Crown Holdings definitely suggest that the company is looking to restructure labour relations across its operations and is using its Toronto plant as an example to its 12,000 unionized employees around the world, even though the Toronto plant has won awards for its productivity and quality.

Crown wants to set a precedent
“In Canada, we can’t let this stand when you say to the union member that even if you agree to all our draconian cuts, we’re not going to take you back anyway. If Crown wins this it will not only set a precedent for Ontario but all of Canada,” says Drexler.

Crown Holding’s desire to break the union is their offer of only allowing 26 of the 124 workers on strike to be able to return to work once a deal is reached. The rest of the staff would be filled by the scab labour that Crown Holdings is currently using in the plant.

crown_can_campaignCrown Holdings demands are harsh. They are expecting the strikers to accept pay cuts of 33 per cent. A two tier wage system would be imposed on new hires, and pensions would be turned into defined contribution from the existing defined benefit pensions.

One of the largest sticking points, and a position that shows Crown Holding’s desire to break the union is their offer of only allowing 26 of the 124 workers on strike to be able to return to work once a deal is reached. The rest of the staff would be filled by the scab labour that Crown Holdings is currently using in the plant. It is estimated that the plant is currently operating at roughly one half to two thirds of its full capacity.

The union has not been given a list which workers would be allowed to return if a deal is reached.

Local 9176 members believe that the company is paying close attention to them on the picket line in order to make sure those deemed troublemakers do not return to work.

This belief is bolstered by the fact that Crown Holdings is using the company AFIMAC which bills itself as offering “elite strike security.” Those on the picket line say that the AFIMAC security guards are closely documenting everything they do.

Crown Holdings can afford to play the long game. Its profits increased to $557 million in 2012, up from $282 million in 2011. Crown Holdings CEO John W. Conway has also been taking home $13 million in compensation per year for the past five years.

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5 thoughts on “Kicking the can: Strikers out 14 months against Crown Holdings

  1. This is an absolute disgrace how you are treating workers and human beings.
    You should be ashamed it’s all about corporate greed
    Your profits are large enough that they should be shared with all employees to earn a decent wage
    CUT BACKS NO MORE

  2. It’s time to stand up for good jobs! Corporate profits are at all time highs. There’s no excuse for more cuts.

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