On May 19, 2011 Kraft Foods informed the BCTGM that the warehouse in Norcross, Georgia, will close and jobs previously performed by BCTGM-represented workers will be transferred to a non-union third-party operation within thirty miles (48 kilometers) of the union warehouse.
This outsourced employer, Exel, is the same employer who has been recently accused of exploiting foreign students on summer visas working in a warehouse located in Palmyra, Pennsylvania, packaging products for the Hershey Company.
It wasn’t until late July that the union learned of Kraft’s outrageous plan to not only destroy union jobs, but to deny union members their hard-earned benefits. In violation of the collective agreement, which provides for severance pay for all employees in the event of a closure, Kraft is refusing to provide severance to those employees who may be retained as drivers after the closure. Kraft’s reasoning is “the drivers will be working so it is not a total closing”. Furthermore, “the drivers will be working at a non-union facility, so the collective agreement will no longer apply”.
Kraft, however, would be open to providing severance pay to these workers – if the union agreed to flexibility changes to the current collective bargaining agreement: flexibility changes that have been Kraft’s bargaining proposals for years, and have always been refused by the union. Thus Kraft is seeking to achieve its demands through a post-bargaining subterfuge, while denying workers their contractual right to severance pay.
Kraft’s strategy (like Hershey’s) is to hide behind these outsourced employers and enable the expansion of low-wage, zero-benefit jobs, all in the name of higher returns for shareholders.
Reported by Jim Condran, BCTGM International Representative