(en) Profit and Loss

lingvoj@lds.co.uk
Fri, 28 Feb 1997 20.41 GMT


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FREEDOM PRESS INTERNATIONAL 84b, Whitechapel High St., London E1 7QX UK (sample edition of FREEDOM on request from London) ----------------------------------

PROFIT AND LOSS

Entrepreneurs take risks, we are told, and the reward for that is profit. Those risks can of course be limited to the company, but 'the company' can be a difficult entity to pin down because, when it comes to paying debts, responsibility seems to lie anywhere than with the entrepreneurs. This is the genius behind the idea of limited liability. Bankruptcies are two-a-penny, and their knock-on effects trail misery for many, but they can also be a tidy little earner for some - and I don't mean the lawyers. This depends, however, on having a nice flexible work-force ill-equipped to protect their own interests. Some bosses take too big a risk with their workers, however, as in this recent example. Seventy textile workers at Tudorgold Ltd, Sterling House, 67 Lawrence Road, Tottenham, London N 15, started an occupation of their factory on 24th January in response to manager' s failure to pay their wages for the past month - a total of about f40,000. The workers, of many nationalities but mostly Turks and Kurds speaking little or no English, have experienced more than they can take of being pushed around working up to an eighty-hour week for less than f2.50 per hour machining women's fashion jackets which retail at up to f200 in high street stores. The workers declared they would remain in occupation of the factory until all the wages owed to them were paid in full. Tudorgold promptly declared itself bankrupt. In the seedy back-streets of sweatshop Britain, it pays to play it close to your chest. All the workers knew about Tudorgold is that the boss is George Hanna with two others known as Alan and Angelo, then there's Angelo's son, and Warren who may or may not own the machines operated by the workers. These people have been spinning a web of deceit no-one knows who is responsible for what or where to find anyone. Angelo's son even blamed Hanna for making off with the company' s bank balance, but Hanna, also known to be a director of McHanna Holdings Ltd, made a reappearance and promised "I will make sure that you're paid" - a promise the workers managed to tape-record. Meanwhile pressure is being exerted. When I visited the factory on Sunday 3rd February, Warren, a large, heavy man, was also visiting and complaining very forcefully that the workers were sabotaging the machines. This strongly suggests a pretext for some imminent legal action. Already writs have been threatened and it was expected that the bosses would try to exclude the workers from the workshops so the machines could be removed to a new location. A security firm has been hired by the bosses to 'keep an eye on things' even though the workers have made it clear that it is not in their interests to damage the machines from which they earn a living. The workers have received messages of support from workers from Hillingdon Hospital, Liverpool Dockers and the Magnet factory in Darlington. They are receiving the active support of the local textile branch of the TGWU which is run by irnmigrant textile workers. Support in the union is unlikely to go beyond branch level and any support from elsewhere would be welcomed. An early victory with important implications was scored. When Kacy Ltd, the company for which Tudorgold was a sub-contractor, came to collect a finished order, the workers got them to pay f11,000 for it, thus cutting out the middle-men. It would probably only take a few days to work off what the workers are owed if they put the factory to their own use. Imagine what could happen if we could go beyond strikes and occupations and turn these productive facilities to social use. The role of bosses is certainly superfluous. since they don't have any risks to take. For further information and messages of support contact: Tekin Kartal (secretary, NE London Textile Workers Branch, Transport & General Workers Union) at 8-10 Stamford Hill, London N16.

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