UK/USA: Strike at O-I Glass threatens supply of bottles

A strike at three O-I Glass (formerly Owens-Illinois) sites in the UK is expected to result in shortages of glass bottles, particularly at companies including Diageo, Carlsberg and Diageo.

Over 160 workers, members of Unite the Union, are set to walk out in rejection of a pay offer of just four per cent, which the union says is a pay cut given the real inflation rate (RPI) currently stands 11.1 per cent.

Strike action will be across three sites: the Devilla Forest Quarry and the Glasshouse Loan which are both in Alloa, Scotland, and the company’s plant in Edinburgh Way, Harlow, 30 miles (48km) north-east of London.

Strikes will begin with a 24 hour strike at the Devilla Forest Quarry, on Wednesday 15 June, this will be followed by a 48 hour strike at the Glasshouse in Alloa, beginning on Thursday 16 June. The workers at the Harlow plant will then stage a 48 hour walkout beginning on Sunday 19 June. Further strike action is set to be announced in the near future.

Hopes of progress in the dispute collapsed this week when the company simply restated their previous pay offer during negotiations.

Unite national officer Tony Devlin said: “Our members are taking strike action as a last resort. This dispute will cause a considerable shortage of bottles for UK drinks companies but this is entirely of O-I Glass’ own making. The company has been given every opportunity to make a decent pay offer but it has chosen not to.”

The UK is not the only country where O-I glass faces the risk of strikes. The same is true for O-I Glass in Muskogee, Oklahoma, where a contract expired at the end of March. The company offered a 1% pay rise, but union officials argue that with inflation at 7.9%, that's not enough.

Two days ago, O-I Glass released a business update, quoting O-I Glass CEO Andres Lopez. “The second quarter is progressing very well, and we now expect adjusted earnings will exceed our previous guidance range. Glass container shipments (in tons) are up approximately one percent quarter-to-date through May, which is consistent with our expectations of low, single digit growth. Stronger results reflect more favorable operating performance and higher net price. As a result, we anticipate second quarter 2022 adjusted earnings1 will exceed $0.65 per share, which compares to our most recent guidance range of $0.55 – $0.60 per share.”

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “O-I Glass is another shameful example of a business that can afford to pay a decent wage but won’t pay. The offer on the table is a pay cut, not a rise, and is entirely unacceptable.

“O-I Glass needs to return with an acceptable offer or face strike action by our members, who will have the full support of their union in this fight for fair pay.”

O-I Glass, Inc. is an American Fortune 500 company that specializes in container glass products. It is one of the world's leading manufacturers of packaging products, holding the position of largest manufacturer of glass containers in North America, South America, Asia-Pacific and Europe.

The current problems at I-O glass hit the industry at a time when glass bottles are generally in short supply. The German Brewers' Association warned in May that Germany was threatened with beer supply bottlenecks. The reasons given were reduced production and destocking of glass bottles during the pandemic and the war in Ukraine. (, 17.5.2022)

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