Greenpeace protests about John West outside Merseytravel’s HQ with a giant tin of tuna
The plaza outside Mann Island in Liverpool has seen many protests. There have in the recent past been a trade union protest about worker’s rights on this £1.2 billion contract signed by councillors on the Merseyside Recycling and Waste Authority to deal with Merseyside’s rubbish (exclusively published by this blog) and more recently another trade union protest about removing guards from Merseyrail trains.
Although industrial correspondents seem to have disappeared from the media, as a political journalist reporting on political protests is part of the role. As you’d expect I’ve seen many protests (in fact nearly every Liverpool City Council meeting I went to earlier this year seemed to have a protest outside) but never have I ever seen a protest involving a massive tuna can.
Greenpeace did send me a press release, however I haven’t based this story on the press release but instead some questions posed to Greenpeace instead as there are already other stories in the media based largely on the press release.
You are probably wondering what the connection is to the Merseyside taxpayer. A long time ago, Merseytravel moved its headquarters from Hatton Gardens and signed a lease for Mann Island. For some reason (don’t ask me why) they rented the whole building at Mann Island including many floors they wouldn’t need.
As this article in the Liverpool Echo points out John West (the tuna company) were offered a £1 million sweetener to relocate their headquarters to Mann Island.
I posed some original questions to Greenpeace and these are their answers. I was at Mann Island yesterday for a public meeting, but due to the protest Mann Island was in partial lockdown so it would’ve been impossible to speak to John West to report on their side. My questions are in bold.
Q. The building you were protesting outside today is leased by a body called Merseytravel. However they realised they had leased too many floors and needed tenants.
In order to encourage John West to sublease some of the building from Merseytravel they offered a cash payment and a rent free period. This amounts to either £1 million or a rent free period of 4 years and 9 months. There is more detail here http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/merseytravel-hands-1m-sweetener-john-3346198 .
Did you know about this taxpayer support that was behind John West’s HQ being based at Mann Island?
This looks interesting but it’s not something we have a position on I’m afraid – as our focus is on the sustainable and ethical fishing methods of John West and their owners – Thai Union – who are the world’s largest tuna company.
Q. You state that John West have broken their promises. Are there other brands of tuna you’d recommend consumers buy that are fished for sustainably?
Yes, we have a tuna league table which ranks the tinned tuna sold by the UKs major supermarkets and tuna brands, according to how sustainable and ethical it is. It’s here – scroll down. Overwhelmingly, the most sustainable options for consumers are supermarket own brands. Waitrose, M&S, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Aldi all perform very well. So too do Asda, Morrisons and the Coop – all of which sell 100% sustainably caught tuna in their own brand tins. At rock bottom is John West, with just 2% sustainably caught tuna in their tins. Princes and Lidl also need to do much better and change the way they source their tuna.
Q. What is John West’s response to your protest? As someone who was in the building today, it was basically put on a partial lockdown in case protestors wanted to go to the John West part. Have you had any formal response from John West?
There has been no response from John West today as a result of our activities. We tried to deliver our petition containing the names of more than 70,000 people who are demanding that John West honour its sustainability commitment and its owners – Thai Union – clean up their act globally. But Paul Reenan, the John West MD refused to come down and accept it.
John West has put out a previous statement, responding to the launch of our campaign just over 4 weeks ago. The main points they raise and our rebuttals are here.
Q. If John West made claims that turn out to be false have you taken this up with trading standards?
A Greenpeace investigation found 1000s of John West tuna products coming from Thailand and some of them had 100% traceability labels on tins that were misleading. This is because they claimed the tuna could be traced back to the vessel that caught it, using their website, but this was false. More on that investigation here. It’s an interesting angle and it’s definitely something that could be looked into.
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