Workers at the Northampton plant of one of the world’s largest packaging firms have begun a 48-hour strike over the dismissal of two Unite shop stewards.
Unite members at Smurfit Kappa, who had previously been working to rule, walked out at midnight (April 1) calling for their colleagues to be immediately reinstated.
Speaking from a noisy picket line this morning Unite regional officer Mick Orpin said, “significantly at twelve o’clock last night the whole factory walked out and it’s really humbling to see so many people out here today.
“We have support from colleagues across the country, Ireland and the world,” he said, “we have messages of support coming in to us every few minutes.”
Orpin feels management at the paper packaging company have been acting “in a manner more suited to industrial relations of the 19th century.”
He firmly believes the strike action by more than one hundred Unite members at the plant will force bosses back to the negotiating table following “a direct attack on the union and our representatives.”
Unite claim the two dismissed staff – senior steward Geoff Butcher and deputy senior steward Paul Metcalfe – were sacked after they “stood up to the company over ‘race to the bottom’ contracts and alleged incorrect bonus payments.”
This morning, also speaking from the picket line, Butcher told UNITElive he was “angry and amazed” at the firm’s stance and warned bosses that Unite’s resolve was strong.
“We had a mass meeting on Sunday and I would think around 80 per cent of the workforce were there. That filled us with a hell of lot of confidence and we have had a lot of people turning up outside the factory door today.”
Local Unite officers say the strike action could be escalated to a further four day stoppage unless the sacked representatives are allowed back to work.