Workers at the huge multinational firm Scottish Power began a two-day strike on Tuesday of this week.
Workers who repair and maintain the electricity network went on strike across Scotland, in Merseyside and north Wales. Hundreds of workers joined picket lines at Scottish Power depots. A senior AEEU shop steward at Scottish Power, Willie Black, spoke to Socialist Worker about why the workers have said enough is enough:
'The heart of our dispute is massive job cutting and bosses pushing through rationalisation to maximise profits. After the electricity industry was privatised, electricity was split up into various companies and the bosses used this to push through a rationalisation operation, with massive job losses. In the last two to three years the bosses have been on a general offensive at every company.
'Scottish Power is following the same path as companies like Marconi and Enron, which collapsed last week. The firm bought into the US, buying Pacificore company in Salt Lake City. But this has resulted in losses of £120 to £200 million. The result is bosses putting on the squeeze throughout the company, and above all making workers pay for the bosses' failures. We have now decided to draw a line in the sand. We are saying we must fight every company, defend every job and our conditions, to stop the downward spiral.
'Union leaders from the AEEU, GMB and TGWU signed an agreement with Scottish Power management on 31 May 2000. That stated there would be no job losses, and no fundamental changes to our conditions. Now the company have reneged on this agreement. They want to transfer around 150 emergency workers into a joint venture company. This will mean that rather than an integrated system, we will be split up and a greater burden put on other workers.
'The bosses will blame us for any failures during the strike. But in fact there have been warnings in the press about possible California-style power cuts in Britain this winter. This is because of their decisions and their failures in their ventures in the US. The anger against the company bosses is immense. In the run-up to the strike we set up strike committees in over 30 depots, held mass meetings and planned picketing rotas. We are doing 'life and limb' emergency work for hospitals.
'But we want to hit the big financial centres, like Liverpool, Glasgow and Edinburgh. We are the workers who hold the whole system together, and that gives us tremendous potential power. We are calling on every union across the industry, along with other workers, to back our fight. This crisis is a result of the mad logic of their system. Even if we win this battle, the fight goes on. We need to argue for renationalisation of the whole industry-otherwise these companies will be the Railtracks of the future.'
Workers plan to strike next Tuesday, 11 December, and Wednesday 12 December. There will be stewards' meetings on Saturday to discuss further action.