THE new owner of a Bangor packaging company, which is currently being hit by strike action, is ‘reconsidering’ its investment in the city, it has been revealed.

As workers continue to strike at MM Packaging, based at Balloo Drive, a statement from the company’s managing director has said the end result of the reconsideration could be a ‘large impact for the local area’.

Declan McGrady said the firm is committed to ‘fair and affordable’ pay for its workforce, however, he cautioned against excessive demands which he warned could jeopardise the future of the business.

Speaking this week, Mr McGrady said: “It is the company’s commitment to ensure fair and affordable reward for our valued people. Excessive demands could however jeopardise the long-term sustainability of the business in a very competitive environment.

“Currently the company is operating at reduced capacity to service its customers. At the same time the new owner, MM Packaging, is now reconsidering the investment planned for the Bangor site, which could be a large impact for the local area.
“We would urge our employees to act in a safe and legal manner at all times,” added Mr McGrady.

The company is owned by the Mayr-Meinhof Karton AG group and is the only manufacturer of agricultural sacks used by the likes of Lakeland Dairies and Dairygold on the island of Ireland.

Workers at the MM Packaging plant in Balloo have been on strike since last Thursday in the first industrial action at the company in the past 38 years.

As well as garnering support from local politicians who visited the picket line, a protest was held outside the company’s headquarters in Vienna in support of the Bangor workers.

The strike action followed a ballot of Unite union members which returned 91% for strike action on 100% turnout. According to a Unite spokesman the workforce are ‘highly skilled packaging operatives’ who are asking for an ‘inflation-proofed increase to bring them above the real Living Wage which reflects the real cost of living pressures on workers’.

Bangor man Tyler Crawford, has been working for the local firm for over five years and is a Unite representative. Explaining why they were on the picket line he said: “Most of our guys are barely scraping minimum wage.

“The rate of inflation is 13.5% and you know how much the cost of living has increased. So we are out for a minimum of inflation pay rise so the guys can be a bit more comfortable in the midst of a cost of living crisis.”

He said: “The company is talking about investing over £1m in new machinery and equipment which could be invested in the workforce which has been keeping it going.”

Comber man Peter Crossen has been working for the company for 13 years and said of the strike action: “This action is for the working class people, they need a pay rise to keep up with inflation and we have to stick together to get it.”

Neil Moore, Unite union regional officer said the workers are very resolute and very determined to get a win.
“It is an incredibly low paid workplace for skilled manufacturers, some of whom are on minimum wage and some are just above minimum wage,” he said.

“Their demand for an inflationary pay rise is more than reasonable and the amount of support from the local community as well as delivery drivers who have refused to cross the picket line and turned back, show the huge support.”

The union regional officer said the company was ‘hugely profitable globally’ and the strike was about ‘demanding a fair increase amidst the cost of living crisis’.
He said the latest pay offer had been rejected as it ‘would have seen the less paid just mere pennies above what is the already government implemented national minimum wage increase’.

He said the strike action had attracted wide support. “The support has gone wider than Bangor with protests outside the headquarters in Vienna in support of the workers,” he said.

North Down Assemblyman Alex Easton lent his support to the striking workers.
“I am supporting the striking workers and would encourage the management to engage in dialogue with the union to resolve the pay issues.”