Laid off employees unhappy with Graphic Packaging

Local union officials say workers at the Graphic Packaging plant in Brampton are not getting much assistance from management in advance of the facility’s upcoming closure on September 13.

In a written statement, Graphic Packaging spokesperson Tricia Taylor said the company was working with the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada (CEP) to “finalize the details of the progams we will provide affected employees.”

However, CEP national representative Zoran Grgan said the reality of the situation is quite different. “We’re left with the belief that the company won’t do anything more than the bare minimum of the law and get away with anything it can,” he told “They’re not communicating with us, period.”

Grgan said Graphic Packaging is making their Brampton employees work out their notice period until the facility’s official date of closure on September 13. “There’s no generous packages nor have they tabled anything about when they’re going to pay employees for whatever per year of service,” he said. “All we’re left with is the minimum of the law, the Employment Standards Act.”

The company announced the closure of the Brampton facility on Aerowood Drive on July 15. In an email, Taylor called the move “a necessary step to allow Graphic Packaging to better leverage our strengths across the business.”

Grgan said the move caught everyone on staff by surprise, especially given the multiple concessions they made during their last union negotiations. “The employees took lots of pay cuts and froze their pension plan and took reductions on benefits,” he said, calling the reductions in compensation for the last contract significant.

Out of more than 150 staff at the facility, Grgan said there are 133 members of CEP Local 698 affected, many of who have been working for Graphic Packaging for decades. “It’s an aging workforce,” he said, noting the plant was first opened in the 1950s. “We have people that have worked there for almost 40 years.”

While some of the Brampton staff are in their early 20s, Grgan said insufficient pensions meant many were also working past the age of 65. “At least half of the workforce has worked there for more than 25 years,” he estimated.

Grgan said the local CEP is still hopeful they can negotiate a package, especially since the company is still earning money. “The company is not in trouble because of its poor products,” he said. “It’s a cash flow issue.”

A month prior to the announcement about the Brampton facility, Graphic Packaging announced it was closing its UK site in Gillingham, resulting in the loss of up to 170 jobs. Its worldwide headquarters are located in Sandy Springs, near Atlanta, Georgia.

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