Workers lock out on Merseyside

Bosses have adopted a new tactic in industrial disputes to counteract workplace militancy in the form of factory lock-outs. Recently workers at two factories have been subject to lock-outs during disputes over wages and redundancies.

Employees at the Austrian owned Mayr-Melnhof Packaging (MMP) factory in Bootle have been locked out for over a month now after negotiations over redundancies broke down and management simply locked the gates. Initially workers had occupied the factory that makes packaging for cereal, pet food and confectionery, and demanded proper negotiations after management finally announced it was to axe 49 jobs. It is reported that around 40 workers entered the building telling management that nothing would move in or out of the site until employers met with the union for emergency negotiations.

There had been a series of one day strikes previously in the run up to the planned job losses over the proposed method of selection for the redundancies and the terms and conditions of those redundancies.

As a response the company took the unprecedented step of locking the gates and the entire workforce were informed not to show up for work and that they would not continue to be paid. Fearing the company was set to move stock and equipment from the closed factory to its other UK operation in Wales workers mounted a blockade to prevent lorries leaving and have maintained a picket outside the gates ever since.

It is understood that this is the first time a company has locked workers out as part of an industrial dispute since 1958.

Meanwhile in Birkenhead over 200 workers at the meat packaging factory were locked out by their new owners Tulip, the UK arm of Danish Crown, who closed the factory and boarded up the site after an ongoing dispute over redundancies.  When employees arrived for work they were handed a letter simply stating the factory had been closed because of “significant operational issues “.

Factory workers were already in a consultation period over plans by the new management to shut the plant after a recent decline in orders.

It is thought the company took the action it did to prevent its obligation in paying out a proper redundancy package to the workforce. It is also understood they want to move production to another site in Cornwall.

What is clear is both  lock outs came as part of a deliberate, if desperate, strategy by the companies’ owners to force those fighting for their  jobs and a decent wage  to accept inferior deals. It is perhaps an indication of things to come that methods not usually associated with disputes in the UK are being brought out and used now.

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