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Lion Capital Calls in the Union-Busters

Lion Capital, which last year acquired the up-market chips maker Kettle Foods, has called in professional union busters to prevent the T&G section of Unite from organizing 340 workers at the company's Norwich facility. After the T&G successfully applied for union recognition in April, Lion engaged the "Omega Division" of US-based Burke Group, one of the most notorious US union-busting firms.

In the run-up to the October 1 representation ballot, according to a local news report "Staff supporting a petition for union representation at the Barnard Road site claimed they had been asked to retract their support in one-to-one meetings with Omega consultants, drafted in by Kettle Foods ahead of next Saturday's poll. Hygiene staff and office and warehouse employees also said they had been denied access to discuss union representation or were warned union recognition could lead to benefits being “bargained away.”

The election results will be announced next week.

Burke, well-known to US trade unionists, describes itself as "The nation's largest full service MANAGEMENT consulting firm specializing in union avoidance and preventative industrial labor relations" with 1300 clients in 50 industries in 10 countries. Burke boasts of its near-perfect record in defeating unions in recognition elections and decertifying existing unions for their corporate clients. Burke is becoming increasingly active in the UK. According to the International Transport Workers' Federation, "In the UK the Burke Group is believed to have been hired by T-mobile for its anti-union organising campaign, while Virgin Atlantic airlines admits to having hired the group for advice on 'communication issues.'"

Lion Capital's other portfolio food brands include Weetabix, Orangina and the French preserve company Materne. In August 2007 we reported on Lion Capital's advance into the Russian food market with the USD 500 million acquisition of the juice drinks company Nidan Soki, the largest Russian LBO to date.