Published: 04/07/2011

New hires at Herning while workers at Hadsund fight pay cuts

The following stories were published by the Danish Food Workers Union, NNF, on 30 June 2011:

200 new employees at DC in Herning

In the last six months, the number of employees at Danish Crown in Herning rose by about 200. With restructuring, some new employees were expected, but certainly not so many. – It’s amazing, fantastic, says shop steward Kurt Høj.

“I must admit I’m overjoyed. It’s so nice and positive that unemployed workers, both from the Food Workers’ Union NNF and other industries, have got jobs. Admittedly, some are employed as holiday relief for a limited period. If we keep half of the increase after the holidays, that’s great”, says Kurt Høj.

Restructuring at Danish Crown in Denmark began some years ago when the number of pigs for slaughter in Denmark fell dramatically. Pig producers earned more by sending their pigs to Germany.

“Although many farmers still send their pigs across the border, the traffic has decreased considerably.

“Moreover, some workers were fired while the new slaughterhouse Hilton increased its capacity. Today we have more employees in the retail division largely because of new products, marinated products for the barbecue season, and the like.

Some years ago we stopped using so-called break slaughterings. With the increased capacity these have now been restored, and two so-called part-time teams working 28 hours one week and 32 the other on evening / night shifts. By the way, these are shifts that slaughterhouse workers are very happy to join”, says Kurt Høj.

With the many new hires, the labour force now counts about 800 NNF members. At Danish Crown in Herning 31,000 pigs are slaughtered each week, and there are almost 1000 employees in total.

Hell, no!

On Wednesday afternoon, just over 40 employees of DC Hadsund attended an after-work meeting. Employees at DC Hadsund reject pay cuts in connection with the relocation of production. And they encourage their colleagues in Denmark to stand together!

Production at the Danish Crown slaughterhouse in Hadsund is going well. So well that the company has decided to move production to the former Tulip-owned factory in Sdr. Borup. And employees can move, too!

But in negotiations between Danish Crown and the Food Workers’ Union NNF about how to start up the new production in Sdr. Borup, it has turned out that not all that glitters is gold. Employees must pay a high price for that move.

For even in this case, Danish Crown see their chance to try pressuring employees on wages – by about up to 30 to 40 DKK per hour.

Under constant pressure
The company is very firm in their desire to make the employees accept pay cuts. And while they are luring workers with a vague guarantee of a job, the threat is clear and easy to understand: Accept the pay cut, or we move production somewhere else and you won’t have a job at all.

The employees at Danish Crown have become accustomed to threats, but even if not knowing if they are being bought or sold wears them down, they stand firm.

That was clear after the meeting for employees at DC Hadsund Wednesday afternoon: “I will not accept a pay cut, I am worth all my pay, if I am to be paid less, it should be because I have to work less”, said an employee.

Need for unity
The employees at the slaughterhouse are not the first at Danish Crown who are pressured and threatened with pay cuts, and they are aware that they will hardly be the last.

Their view is that if the company carries out a pay cut for the workers in DC Hadsund, then their colleagues around the country are sure to be faced with the same demand. Therefore, it is necessary to stand together and stand firm:

“We must pull together, so we are much stronger.”
“We must look beyond the end of our noses. What happens to us, will happen to others later.”
“We may be worried about our own future, but we should also be worried about the others’ future.”

The local chairman of the Food Workers’ Union NNF, Flemming Hansen, who leads the negotiations with Danish Crown, has so far refused to make a deal that reduces employees’ wages and working conditions.

He was backed up at the meeting yesterday:

“Do you believe that a deal where we accept a pay cut will make Kjeld Johannesen (Managing Director, Danish Crown) stop threatening and pressuring us and our colleagues around the country?” asked Flemming Hansen at the meeting.

And the reply was unanimous and prompt:

“Hell, no!”