(en) Labour News (2/2)

Mon, 10 Mar 1997 22.00 GMT

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[more from the 'International Trade Unionist Bulletin']

FORD UNIONS WIN JOB SECURITY ?=20 by Keith Scotcher (Ford, Dagenham)

The press releases and union journals trumpeted the official line, "Victory! Unions win job security at Ford."(AEEU circular). More than anyone else, the Ford workers in Britain new the reality; nearly 1,000 jobs were to be destroyed at the Halewood plants, with Escort saloons, one of the top-selling cars in Britain, no longer to be produced there. In fact, little had changed from Ford's original declaration of 1,300 'redundancies' that had produced a nation-wide reaction in the Ford plants, with every plant giving backing for action against what they saw as the final straw in Ford's running down of UK operations. Alex Trotman, world chief of Ford, had announced on TV Ford's strategy of relocating production at low-wage sites in Poland, Russia, India etc. Every plant convenor correctly reported to mass meetings that it was not only a Halewood issue, but that every job was in danger. For the first time in over 10 years an estate-wide shop stewards meeting took place in Dagenham. There as elsewhere, stewards agreed that a job had to be done - to mobilise the workforce to defeat the company plan. Hundreds of workers travelled to London to lobby a meeting of the company with the union officials; mainly from Halewood, but with delegations from all plants. All were agreed, Escort production must remain in Britain. =20 An anxious looking Tony Woodley (TGWU National Official), told the assembled workers that they must be ready to take action and that they, the union officials, would not rest until the jobs were secured. Halewood convenors contacted their counterparts in Ford's European plants and received promises of support. But, at a meeting on 6/7 February of union officials with Jac Nasser, Chairman of Ford Europe (known as 'Jac the Knife' for his destruction of jobs at Ford Australia), the deal was done before any action was taken. Job losses were reduced from 1,300 to 980, but other claimed 'gains' were in fact already known; the existing Escort van production would continue on one shift only until the year 2000, Escort estates currently produced in Spain would transfer to Halewood for just a few years, but all new model Escorts are to be produced elsewhere. A vague promise was made that a multi-activity vehicle (MAV) might be sited in Halewood, but as the union officials had previously pointed out, the MAV wasn't even on the drawing board yet, nor had Ford committed any investment to it. The agreement was rammed down the throats of Ford workers, who had just voted for mass action to defend jobs. An agreement that accepted 980 job losses was declared a victory. Convenors were refused permission to hold mass meetings to report back and were told by the company that Tony Woodley had insisted upon it! Shop Stewards and workers realised that they had been betrayed. Dagenham PTA stewards refused to meet Woodley out of disgust. The outcome was a betrayal, but the new readiness and spirit of the workforce to fight the company plans was revealed. =20 =20 Construction Safety Campaign Appeal by Tony O'Brien In October 1994, Len Stacey, a British bricklayer, was killed in Leipzig in the old East Germany. He fell 20 feet from the unprotected side of a two-story block of flats, head first onto the rough ground below. He died instantly. His widow, Denise, and two young children, Laura aged 3 and Lenny aged 2, was devastated and her life collapsed. The shock of the bereavement, with no help from family and social services, sent her into a deep depression and she was sectioned into a local psychiatric hospital, her children were taken into care and, when she finally got out, her home was flooded. As she says, " I had lost my husband, my children, my sanity and my home. Everything I loved had been taken away from me." With the help of friends and a housing officer, Denise fought back. First, she regained her children and sorted out her house and then she began to think of justice for Len and some compensation for his children. Then, with some help from the Construction Safety Campaign (CSC) and the TGWU, she started to fight the might of the German government. Twice, with the CSC, she lobbied the German Embassy in London; the second time with the very coffin Len was sent home in. She phoned all the media and press, wrote many letters, visited Germany three times, wrote to MP's and MEP's and generally kicked-up hell about Len's death. In Germany, the construction union, IG Bau were very helpful. In her words, " They arranged press meetings and TV appearances and were very helpful. They even wanted me to sue the German government, but they will have to help me financially and socially if they want me to do that." says Denise. Finally, in February 1997, Denise heard that David Carter, the Director of the British sub-contractor who employed Len-David Carter Construction Ltd.-and two Directors of the German developers were to be prosecuted for manslaughter in March 1997. This is the first ever prosecution for the death of a British building worker employed abroad. In over two years, Denise and her two young children have not received a penny, or pfennig!, compensation and she is heavily overdrawn and in debt. To attend the trial in Germany-for an estimated two weeks-for accommodation and for translation she needs financial support. Will you or your union branch support her? As she says, "Of course I have done this for Len and my children. But I do not want his death to be in vain. I want conditions on all building sites, for all building workers, made safe." Donations to:- 'The Denise Stacey Justice Campaign', A/C No. 41042493, Natwest Bank Ltd., 5 Coldharbour Lane, Hayes, Middx. Britain. UB3 3EL

Project Aerospace Dispute Appeal by Hugh Paine (Shop Steward, Project Aerospace)

Members of the MSF Craft Section working at Project Aerospace Developments, Coventry sought to negotiate a claim for:- =B7 Increase in wages of 6.5% =B7 Proper overtime rates =B7 2 days extra holiday =B7 Company pension =B7 Holiday bank Prior to the negotiations, management imposed short-time working, forcing the MSF Craft workers to lose 16 hours per week over a period of 3 weeks. The workers consider the management's 'justification' for introducing these measures were not genuine. The management offered a derisory 3% and refused to negotiate further. The MSF Craft members held an official, secret ballot which resulted in 84% voting for strike action and 96% voting for industrial action short of a strike-an overwhelming result on both questions. The workers implemented a continuous overtime ban and discontinuous strike action on each Friday from 8 November 1996 onwards. On 19 November a letter was received from management informing MSF members that their flexi-hours agreement was being withdrawn and that the new hours were to be 7.30am to 4pm. On 21 November, management informed the MSF members that, as of 25 November, short-time working would be introduced, losing a further 8 hours per week. Conditions in the plant are wholly unsatisfactory on grounds of Health & Safety:- =B7 Broken asbestos roof =B7 Water cascading from broken roof on to machinery =B7 Suspect quality of drinking water, which is obtained from sinks in the= toilets =B7 Diesel forklift trucks being used in confined areas =B7 Safety guards missing from presses =B7 Unacceptable noise levels from drop hammer Despite these conditions, this 'enlightened and civilised' management has refused to recognise the democratically appointed Health & Safety Representative. The 41 MSF Craft members were locked-out by management in December 1996. MSF has made the dispute official. Your moral and financial support would be much appreciated. If you have any advice, comments, messages of support or donations then please contact:- Project Aerospace Shop Fund, c/o Colin Lindsay, President, Coventry TUC, Unit 15, The Arches, Spon End, Coventry. CV1 3JQ (Tel. No. 01203 714070; Fax. No. 01203 714302) Cheques payable to; 'Project Aerospace Shop Fund.'=20

Critchley Labels Workers Fight Back by Donald MacLean (President, CWU)

The 31 people who worked at the Critchley Labels plant in the tiny village of Croespenmaen, S.Wales -- have been sacked because they refused to allow their bosses to kick the union off the site. If you or your union branch can spare some cash to support the Critchley fight for union rights, please mail it to=20 General Treasurer, Critchley Fighting Fund, CWU, Greystoke House,=20 London W5 1AW, UK. =20 =20 NATIONAL SOLIDARITY CONFERENCE 'Uniting the struggles!'

On 1 March in Darlington, Britain the Magnet Strikers convened a highly successful national conference which was attended by over 140 activists from the workers' movement. The purpose of the conference was to build solidarity on behalf of all workers in dispute. It was a magnificent demonstration that workers in Darlington totally accept their responsibilities to their sisters and brothers in the working-class Amongst those representing strikers, who spoke at the conference were, Les Dale(Magnet), Shirley Winter (Magnet Women's Support Group), Hugh Paine (Project Aerospace, Coventry), Graham Collins (Critchley Labels, Newport) and Jimmy Campbell (Liverpool docker).

Many speakers were critical of the support they had received from their unions and the Labour Party. They expressed the need for a network of support groups and other measures to be taken to build solidarity, not just for the present disputes but also for those in prospect.

Speaking for the ITUSC in support of all the struggles and congratulating the initiative of the Magnet Strikers in calling the conference, Keith Standring said, "As all strikers quickly learn, it is only through determined and sustained solidarity action, involving sometimes environmentalists, asylum seekers and justice campaigners, that workers in Britain can free themselves from the legal shackles imposed by the Tories. In light of New Labour's stated intention to continue to use and extend these anti-union, anti-working class laws, it is clear that solidarity actions will increasingly become the order of the day. =20 Our class must overcome the traditional division between the political and industrial wings of the workers' movement and develop, like the dockers have done, a political/industrial strategy. Trade unionists have for too long been willing to leave political matters to the politicians; to continue to do so is dangerous to the workers' movement.=20

It is an unfortunate fact that with the threat of sequestration of union funds looming large in every dispute, no General Secretary is going to place their entire union in jeopardy by mobilising the support necessary to win struggles for only a part of their membership.=20

This demands the immediate establishment of local support groups throughout the length and breadth of the land, to exist in perpetuity; to mobilise financial and physical support for the struggles of the day; to ensure the valuable experience gained in each struggle is added to the 'bank balance' of the workers' movement and; to raise funds for a 'war chest', based on the extension of the regular '=A31 per person per week' levy which already= exists in some workplaces, to ensure that no struggle is lost through financial= need.=20

These support groups must of necessity be pluralist in character and they are not new unions. Rather, they meet a vital need which the trade unions do not provide for their members and which they are unlikely to provide in the foreseeable future, just at the time when workers need them most. =20

National Solidarity Conferences should be convened as and when appropriate, by those involved in the struggles of the day, to act as a 'clearing house' for information and as a co-ordinating body to unite the struggles and build solidarity."

Ian Crammond, Secretary of the Magnet Strike Committee said that despite the short notice, he had been impressed by the number of delegates from all parts of Britain. Magnet Strikers can be proud of the fact that the task of building a strong movement of workers' solidarity was advanced significantly because of their initiative.=20 _____________________________________________________________________ =20 =20 Keith Standring (itusc@gn.apc.org)

FREEDOM PRESS INTERNATIONAL =20 http://www.tao.ca/~freedom

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