(PARIS) – International Brotherhood of Teamsters Director of Global Strategies Tim Beaty met this week with officials from CFDT and CGT, two of the major unions representing workers at Air Liquide in France. Together they strategized about the quickly deteriorating labor relations at Airgas [NYSE : ARG], Air Liquide’s recent investment in the United States gas market.
Air Liquide announced an offer to purchase Airgas in November 2015 amid much criticism from French economic analysts over the exorbitant price of $13.4 billion (USD). Shareholder approval in the United States came on Feb. 23, 2016.
“Since January 2015, Airgas began taking an aggressive and confrontational approach to its dedicated and loyal workforce by locking out workers during negotiations, threatening workers with loss of wages and health insurance, encouraging workers to resign their union membership and violating United States federal labor law,” Beaty said.
Beaty said the change in attitude by the company toward its workers has already led to a shutdown of services and deliveries of urgently needed oxygen and other important medical gases to hospitals and medical centers in three New England states, as well as a strike in Cincinnati. The Teamsters have also conducted protests at Air Liquide’s United States headquarters in Houston and at the French Embassy in Washington, D.C.
“Unbelievably, Air Liquide France’s CEO Benoit Potier, and its U.S. CEO, Michael Graff, have repeatedly refused to meet with Teamsters General President James Hoffa to discuss ways to get the relationship at the new acquisition back on track in order to protect and increase the value of their substantial investment,” Beaty said.
Airgas’ new approach to worker treatment includes the company’s insistence on tracking their employees using devices carried by people, installed on trucks, or attached to equipment or products, including cell phones, portable or onboard computers, wearable devices such as watches, Radio Frequency Identification systems, GPS, video systems and any future evolution of such technologies.
“We have had very productive talks with CDFT and CGT regarding solidarity with the Teamster workers at Air Liquide and Airgas. If I was an investor in Air Liquide, I would be asking why CEOs Potier and Graff are not protecting my investment and continue to turn a blind eye to the escalating labor problems in the United States,” Beaty said.
Founded in 1903, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters represents 1.4 million hardworking men and women throughout the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. Visit www.teamster.org for more information. Follow us on Twitter @Teamsters and “like” us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/teamsters.