Unite has called for the industrial action after a local union representative was dismissed and another one suspended, pending a further hearing which could also result in his dismissal.
Mick Orpin, regional officer, Unite told FoodProductionDaily its members at Smurfit Kappa (Northampton) will be taking industrial action starting from Tuesday March 24 for a discontinuous period of one month – consisting of a work to rule and an overtime ban.
“The dispute is in relation to the dismissal of our deputy senior steward and the suspension of our senior steward,” he said.
“In both cases it can be argued that this is a direct attack on our stewards for two reasons; In relation to the dismissal - the company used spurious allegations that our deputy senior totally refutes –– the appeal is still pending.
“In relation to the suspension – our senior rep was invited to a disciplinary meeting where he was facing a possible final warning for interfering in the above investigation basically doing what any good rep does and trying to defend one of his stewards - at that meeting he was suspended and is now facing dismissal.
“This threat of dismissal is very real.”
Orpin added although we will be starting the overtime and work to rule on the 24th we will need to escalate this action if any action is taken against our senior rep.
That action will be determined after Monday but could include a 48 hour stoppage before the Easter Break.
A spokesman for Smurfit Kappa said: “A total of five employees have been summoned to disciplinary hearings. Three hearings have now been held and outcomes confirmed. A further two hearings have yet to take place.
“In each case the colleague concerned has been/will be given the right to appeal the outcome.
"Smurfit Kappa cannot comment further until all of our internal processes have been concluded.”
Smurfit Kappa Green
The facility in Moulton Way, Northampton, is home to Smurfit Kappa Green, which specialises in the design and manufacture of corrugated packaging for fresh and prepared produce, in addition to the floral and bedding markets.
In February last year, Unite balloted over 2,000 members to take strike action in the corrugated sector, over a 2.95% pay offer made by the Confederation of Paper Industries (CPI) for September 2013 to September 2014.
Paul Finegan, national officer, Unite said at the time, Smurfit Kappa and DS Smith’s profits had gone up by 7.5% and Saica’s went up 23.7% last year.
“We have a situation where highly profitable companies within the industry – Smurfit Kappa, DS Smith Plc, SAICA Pack UK – continue to make good profits. Senior executives within the industry enjoy overall pay packages worth hundreds of thousands of pounds, if not millions per year. Shareholders enjoy the benefits of these profits. Yet on the other hand the industry is refusing to pay workers a fair and affordable share of the industry’s success.
“It is clear that no matter how great the profits of the companies concerned are, they have a policy of holding pay rises below the rate of inflation. This was reaffirmed by the lead negotiator on behalf of the employers stating that the 2.9% offer was the final offer and it had nothing to do with each employers’ ability to pay.”
Paul Storey, head of employment affairs, CPI, insisted the 2.95% offer was fair and reasonable and reflective of the sector performance, and higher than the median settlement level of 2% currently being seen in the manufacturing sector.