Circle Media Group has reacted to complaints from union representatives on the continent, describing the claims as “unfounded, unsubstantiated and harmful to our businesses”.
Union representatives from Circle Media plants convened in Brussels last month at a meeting organised by trade union federation Uni Europa.
The meeting came about following the sudden filing for bankruptcy at Circle Media’s Helio Charleroi gravure plant in Belgium at the end of January, which had employed 180 workers.
Circle Media Group (CMG) employs more than 5,000 staff across nine countries, and Uni Europa said the union reps had discussed “a litany of grievances including job cuts, late payment of wages, unpaid suppliers and bank delisting", and said union members were “ready to mobilise” at the group.
Nicola Konstantinou, the head of UNI Graphical and Packaging said: “We are deeply concerned at the cavalier attitude of CMG to both its business model and its workforce. We fear that if CMG is not made to act responsibly, the closure of the print works at Charleroi will not be the last. CMG’s more than 5,000 workers and their families deserve better than this. Our unions are ready to mobilise.”
Konstantinou said that there had previously been a European Works Council at the then-CirclePrinters business, but this had ceased some time ago after Circle sold off its French businesses.
In a statement, CMG rejected the union’s claims and said the group was subject to difficult market circumstances affecting the whole European print market, including declining volumes, overcapacity, and “cut-throat competition”.
“CMG of course recognises the right of employees to organise themselves. However, the arguments used in this call are unfounded, unsubstantiated and harmful to our businesses, our employees and our management.”
The group, which acquired book and commercial printer CPI Group last summer and German web offset printer Körner Druck in December 2018, said it would continue its consolidation strategy “in a responsible way”.
“This includes investing in companies to consolidate the market, as well as reducing capacity where necessary. Though we cannot disclose details for competitive reasons, we can confirm that no cash from operating companies was used for our recent acquisitions, contrary to what the unions claim,” it stated.
“In addition, it is also important to know that the Group operates within strict divisional boundaries, whereby each (geographical) division is responsible for its own cash management and financing, and needs to stay healthy or restructure within the resources available.”
CMG told PrintWeek that it had subsequently received a letter from the union asking for dialogue.
Unite members at book printer CPI William Clowes in Beccles took strike action last month in a dispute over pay.
CirclePrinters acquired Roto Smeets two years ago, and subsequently rebranded as Circle Media Group.