MMP lockout workers confront Austrian owners

Unite is targeting company shareholders, warning of 'significant reputational damage to all those associated with MMP' if the Merseyside lockout and sackings are allowed to go ahead.
by - 25th April 2012, 7.30 BST

Shareholders in Austrian packaging company MMP are being promised a gauntlet of angry workers when they arrive at the company’s AGM in Vienna this morning.

The protest is part of an international wave of action against the lockout of nearly 150 printworkers from their factory in Bootle on Merseyside.

(Pictured: MMP workers ask for support from London Mayoral candidate Ken Livingstone, 20th April)

In the last month, Unite has organised a series of protests and demonstrations across the UK and Europe aimed at highlighting what it says is the illegal dismissal of the Bootle workforce and the closure of the site in March.

Four Unite reps at the plant were also sacked.

Unite says it has established that MMP shareholders include leading institutional investors such as AXA, BlackRock, BNP Paribas, Henderson, Impax Asset Management, Invesco, Schroders and Unicredit.

In a letter to shareholders, seen by UnionNews, it says the company has acted ‘with blatant disregard for the law and without any meaningful discussion or negotiation with their loyal workforce or trade union.’

The letter warns: ‘The potential for significant reputational damage to all those associated with MMP will increase dramatically in the coming weeks and months if the company do not act reasonably, abide by the law and act within commonly accepted international labour standards.’

Unite also wants MMP to honour a redundancy offer made before the lockout began last February to a group of 37 of the Merseyside workers – arguing that this should apply to the whole workforce.

In other action, the union has targeted the global cereal manufacturers Kellogg’s – for whom the Liverpool workers made packaging – and retailers John Lewis, which owns Waitrose, Tesco and Asda as well as Co-Operative stores (pictured, below).

Workers from other MMP sites in France, Spain, Austria, Germany and Tunisia are expected to join this morning’s protest in Vienna.

Ahead of the protest Unite national officer Ian Tonks said: “Vienna is a beautiful city but what MMP has done to its UK workers is simply ugly.

“They may have hoped we would have gone away, but MMP has got that very wrong.

“We will not stay silent.

“We will shout at every MMP meeting, to every MMP client and at every MMP workforce until this company corrects this appalling mistreatment of 140-plus men and women.”

The union’s campaign has also seen demonstrations outside the Austrian embassy in London, the Good Food Show in Birmingham and at the Kellogg’s AGM in USA, undertaken by American unions UFCW, USW and SEIU.