Menzies deal facing workers’ rights heat from union

The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) in the United States said it has raised concerns with investors about “possible impacts on workers rights” stemming from the planned acquisition of Edinburgh-based global airport logistics giant John Menzies by Kuwait-based National Aviation Services (NAS), a subsidiary of Agility Public Warehousing Company.

The warning from the union comes ahead of a meeting scheduled for June 1 where Menzies shareholders vote on whether to approve the £571 million cash takeover deal.

On March 30 the board of Menzies said it will recommend that shareholders accept the offer from NAS.

The offer of £6.08 per share represents a premium of 81% to the Menzies closing share price of £3.35 on February 8, 2022, the last business day prior to the offer period.

In a statement, the SEIU said it represents more than 36,000 contracted airport service workers at US airports including more than 1,000 Menzies workers in California.

“Menzies workers are also organizing with SEIU at several other US airports,” said SEIU.

“SEIU members at airports perform critical frontline roles, serving as security officers, wheelchair/passenger attendants, baggage handlers, terminal and plane cleaners, fuelers, deicers and cargo handlers.

“We believe the interests of workers and the interests of investors counting on sustainable returns are aligned.”

David Huerta, President of SEIU, United Service Workers West, said: “We are calling on Menzies management and both current and future investors to commit to ensuring that our human rights as workers, including honoring current union agreements and respecting workers’ right to form a union, are upheld during and after any acquisition.”

Agility has already acquired about 19% of Menzies shares, making it the largest shareholder in one of Scotland’s oldest and biggest companies.

Agility said it has also received irrevocable undertakings in favor of the deal from Menzies shareholders representing 14.29% of the firm’s stock.

Those shareholders include directors, D.C. Thomson & Company Limited, Axxion S.A., WM Thomson & Sons and SVM Asset Management.

The SEIU added: “Workers have been left largely in the dark about the deal and are worried about risks they might face as a result of the takeover.

“Menzies itself has a troubling history of workers’ rights issues …

“Agility has spoken publicly about a commitment to worker health and safety, stating, ‘We’ve set a global Target Zero to achieve a zero-incident work environment for all of our facilities. When it comes to the health and wellbeing of our people, no other target makes sense.’

“SEIU is calling on investors of both companies to take action to ensure a full, fair, transparent process to be followed that protects workers’ rights during and after the acquisition.

“In the United States, airlines have increasingly outsourced jobs to companies like Menzies.

“Airlines have created a ‘race-to-the-bottom’ whereby contractors cut wages and standards in order to compete with one another …

“Increasing numbers of investors are taking action through a set of Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) Investment policies.

“Responsible contractors recognize the right of all workers to freedom of association in the workplace as protected under local, state and federal law and as recognized by International Labour Organization (ILO) standards.

“Turnover can reduce productivity, and be costly to employers and, in turn, their investors.

“A well trained workforce improves client satisfaction, and that’s critical to the bottom line, and to investors.”

SEIU said airport workers, including Menzies employees, will be contacting investors of Menzies and Agility/NAS in the coming days, ahead of the scheduled meeting.