Modesto’s Silgan can-making plant locks out nearly 100 workers

12/12/2013 1:16 PM

12/12/2013 5:35 PM

A labor dispute at Silgan Containers’ Modesto can-making plant on Riverside Drive reportedly has stopped employees from reporting to work.

“As of 6 p.m. Wednesday, we the employees have been locked out due to disagreements over our union contract,” Silgan worker Lloyd Ellis told The Bee. “As of now, 98 workers are without employment. Everything has to do with our health and benefits program, for which the company is no longer willing to contribute to.”

The Bee’s attempts Thursday to get a comment from Silgan were not successful.

Silgan is one of the world’s leading can makers, and it is among Stanislaus County’s largest private employers. The company operates three manufacturing plants and warehouses in Modesto and one in Riverbank.

This labor contract dispute involves the plant at 567 S. Riverside Drive, which is one of Silgan’s larger Modesto plants. It makes cans for Stanislaus Foods, Seneca and Del Monte canneries, which process assorted Valley-grown tomatoes and fruits.

Silgan employees are represented by Teamsters Local 948. A union spokesperson could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Ellis said their union contract expired Sept. 30, and last month workers rejected Silgan’s latest offer. He said the company proposed freezing wages for two years, stopping pension plan contributions and increasing workers’ health care costs.

“They kept shoving Obamacare down our throats,” said Ellis, who noted that contract negotiations had been ongoing.

Ellis said workers were shocked to discover they were being locked out of their jobs two weeks before Christmas.

That Silgan plant’s last serious labor dispute was in 2007. That resulted in a two-week lockout before a contract settlement was reached.

Silgan Containers is part of Silgan Holdings, which is a publicly traded international company that reported strong earnings in 2011 and 2012. Its sales last year topped $3.6 billion, and it operates about 89 manufacturing plants on four continents.

Silgan makes roughly half of all metal food containers in the United States.

In the annual report it released this spring, Silgan noted its “intent to continue to enhance profitability through productivity and cost-reduction opportunities.”

Silgan’s net income per share set a record high during the third quarter of 2013, increasing 5.1 percent over the previous year. The company’s shareholders will be paid a 14-cents-per-share dividend Dec. 16.

Despite its strong earnings and dividends, one stock analyst – Zacks Investment Research – downgraded Silgan’s stock rating Tuesday to a “strong sell” recommendation.

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