The international meeting of Heinz unions took place in Pittsburgh, USA in March 13-14, 2014 on the initiative and with support of IUF affiliated United Food and Commercial Workers’ Union. 25 participants from USA, Canada, UK, Belgium, Netherlands and Ukraine discussed the ways to develop coordination and build solidarity networks to counter the restructuring measures launched by new company management after acquisition of Heinz by 3G Capital and Berkshire Hathaway. Unions from New Zealand were able to participate in the meeting on-line with a report on Trans Tasman Union coordination group activities. A separate on-line session was organized with union representatives from Belgium, where Heinz recently announced a closure of its ketchup factory in Turnhout and transfer of production to a non-union plant.
The meeting concluded that the company is aimed not only to reduce the number of factories, but to squeeze the number of workers in the existing plants by combining jobs and increasing workload of each employee. The changed nature of the company was clearly illustrated by the fact that Heinz don’t even have any more production in its home town – Pittsburgh – where its valuable contribution to the local economy now remains only in the Heinz history center and belongs to history. The new era of Heinz, which started with the loss of its publicly listed status to a private, owned by financial institutions, shows the job cuts of almost 10 percent in the first year and plans to continue with the same speed.
The meeting studied the current state of the company, its’ role in the global food industry and in the supply chain, strongly condemned the decisions of closure of profitable plants and committed support to the workers in Turnhout, Belgium. The IUF secretariat was mandated to continue research work, and to organize on-line conferences on a regular basis.