Crown workers walk out over pension attacks

Workers at three factories have walked out in immediate and angry response to an attack by Crown on the pension scheme. Crown’s senior management informed trade union lay representatives on Monday 19th November that all enhanced payments of early retirement in the final salary scheme finished at 9am. This was at 10am!

Two hours later a stewards’ meeting at Sutton-in-Ashfield (Nottinghamshire) decided to call a plant meeting for 1pm. Management weren’t told as stewards went around informing the 100 or so on site at the time.

Although half the Sutton workforce has started in the past two years and weren’t allowed to join the final salary pension scheme, stewards explained that this was an attack by the US-owned company on their trade union. If the company got away with this, they could get away with anything and attack terms and conditions won in the past.

A steward told the meeting that these gains had not come from outer space but had been fought for in the past. The 35-hour week goes back to a strike in 1983. Decent pay, sick pay, free glasses and dental care would all be taken back if Crown thought they could get away with it.

Almost all workers are in Unite. They can see the benefits that being in a union have brought, with pay and conditions better than most other places in the area.

Everyone at Sutton walked out, including apprentices. One lad was on his first day but he walked out too. Even some managers came out – they’re also in the pension scheme and clearly hadn’t been warned what was to happen.

After the meeting stewards told lorry drivers on site that the gates would be locked, so they left without loading up. As later shifts came in they also joined the strike.

Workers at Crown factories at Gateshead and Liverpool are also striking, while Neath workers held a canteen sit-in this afternoon. Big customers like Proctor and Gamble who buy the cans Crown makes, will be nervously watching for any impact on their supply chain.

Last week the company closed a plant in Slovakia, but after intervention by trade unions across Europe were forced to apologise and concede better terms to the workforce. Stewards suspect that the company plans more plant closures and wants to make this cheaper by ending enhanced redundancy terms.

“If you show a lead and don’t wait for management to get the upper hand, you get a momentum going and that’s what we have now,” said a Unite steward.