Industrial action at corrugated packaging company Smurfit Kappa in Northampton started today (Tuesday 24 March), following the sacking of two senior stewards, members of Unite, the largest union in the country.
Unite’s 108 members started working to rule and instituting a month-long overtime ban today in support of their two dismissed colleagues who stood up to the company over ‘race to the bottom’ contracts and alleged incorrect bonus payments.
This will be reinforced by a 48-hour strike on Wednesday 1 April and Thursday 2 April, unless the stewards are immediately reinstated.
Unite members voted by 60 per cent for strike action and 73 per cent for action short of a strike over the dismissal of the first steward and the suspended second steward, since sacked.
Unite regional officer Mick Orpin said:
“This fast moving dispute was initially in relation to the dismissal of our deputy senior steward and the suspension of our senior steward.
“However, since the work to rule action was agreed - our senior steward has now also been dismissed.
“In both cases it can be argued that this is a direct attack on our stewards and the fabric of our union for the following reasons.
“Both stewards were instrumental in bringing a claim against the employer for the incorrect payment of a bonus, going back a number and years, and has the potential of costing the company over £250,000.
“The case is due to be heard in the courts during April and is fully backed by Unite
“Both our members were instrumental in resisting second generation contracts being introduced into the workplace last year which would have meant new starters getting paid less than existing workers for the same job.
“We call on Smurfit Kappa to reinstate the two stewards immediately – the management is behaving in a manner more suited to the industrial relations of 19th century than as a modern economy which is the world’s sixth largest.”
Smurfit Kappa is one of the leading providers of paper-based packaging in the world, with about 42,000 employees across 32 countries.
Notes to editors:
For more information please contact Unite regional officer Mick Orpin on 07900 160990 and/or Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 07768 693940.
Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.