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Strike Against Can Makers Spreads To Canada

February 20, 1986

PITTSBURGH (AP) _ A strike by 13,600 United Steelworkers spread today to 12 plants operated by Canada’s largest can maker as 1,850 Canadians joined a walkout entering its fourth day in the United States.

″We walked out at 12:01 a.m. We’re on strike,″ said Susanna Kelley, spokeswoman for the USW in Toronto.

″The company attempted to sweeten its offer a couple of days ago. That wasn’t enough to stop anything. There are no talks scheduled,″ she added in a telephone interview.

Picket lines formed around plants of Continental Can of Canada Ltd., which produces 60 percent of the cans sold in Canada. The Canadians had voted to got on strike with their 13,600 U.S. counterparts at 3 a.m. Monday, but Canadian law requires a three-day cooling off period before a walkout could begin.

USW negotiators were in Hollywood, Fla., attending an AFL-CIO convention. Leon Lynch, a USW vice president and the union’s chief negotiator, was to return home to his Pittsburgh headquarters today.

No talks were scheduled with the four U.S. companies to end the walkout, union officials said.

″They keep taking things off the table. They don’t appear to be very anxious to settle,″ said USW negotiator Maurice Keck in a telephone interview from Florida.

The strike was not expected to have an immediate impact in the marketplace, but one industry analyst said a prolonged shutdown could significantly disrupt business.

The shutdown of four U.S. companies by strikes leaves only two other large producers of beverage cans still operating in the United States, according to the Can Manufacturers Institute Inc. of Washington, D.C.

″If this thing isn’t settled in about 10 days, things could get difficult,″ said Cornelius Thornton, a securities analyst for The First Boston Corp. of New York.

The winter months are typically devoted to stockpiling beverage cans for the beer and soft drink industry’s peak sales period in warmer months, he said. The industry has a seven- to 10-day supply of cans.

Continental of Canada’s three-year contract offer did not match an offer from National Can Corp. of Chicago, which was rejected Monday and triggered a nationwide strike, union negotiators said.

National, which employs about 2,500 union members, offered a $400 yearend bonus in place of a wage increase. Union bargainers said they were disappointed with that as well as the company’s offer on pensions, insurance and other benefits.

Can workers’ wages range from $11 and $16 per hour, and benefits are valued at another $9 to $14. Their last strike in 1971 lasted 30 days.

Continental of Canada’s offer ″wasn’t much worse than National’s, but it was worse,″ Keck said.

The strikebound U.S. companes are Continental Inc. of Stamford, Conn., with 6,000 USW employees; American Can Co. of Greenwich, Conn., 4,500 workers, and Crown Cork & Seal Co. of Philadelphia, 600 workers.

The United States’ two other big beverage can makers, Reynolds Metals Corp. and Ball Co., are not involved in the contract negotiations.

Ben Pawlok and Ralph Wittall, spokesmen for the Toronto-based company, did not return phone calls from The Associated Press seeking comment Wednesday.

″All I can tell you is that there’s no comment on all that strike business,″ Jackie Berg, spokeswoman for Continental, largest of the U.S. can makers, said Wednesday from Stamford.

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