ENGINEERS AT Daimler Chrysler, the major Mercedes Benz garage in Edgware Road, west London, struck on two days last week against a new shift working system. After six months of negotiations the company has announced it will make the entire technician workforce redundant at the end of October in order to impose new contracts.
'The workforce was prepared to look at the shift system when it was first suggested six months ago, but pay enhancements offered fell way short of what our members should expect for extending their working day,' said TGWU union organiser Tom Chinnery. 'The company's response, in effect to sack the entire workforce, is callous and way over the top.'
Some 38 engineers are employed at Edgware Road, but this dispute has wider implications for the Mercedes Benz workforce nationally. The parent company is in the process of taking back its franchises throughout the country to monopolise sales and eliminate competition. 'There is the possibility they could export this practice later,' Chinnery says. 'This is a key dispute. We have been beating our gums to death to try and find a solution.'
The picket has been lively, with placards placed all along the Edgware Road, one of the main routes to the centre from west London. There has been a permanent cacophony of supportive hooting from passing motorists.
Over 16,000 leaflets were given out to the public on the strike days. Further action is planned if talks fail. Management has told customers that delays in service are due to staff training days. 'I suppose they mean training in industrial relations,' says one engineer.
Over the past 30 years the only dispute at the site was a walkout in support of nurses in the 1970s. But in recent times terms and conditions have deteriorated. 'It's all about profit. We don't count-we're just a number to them,' one technician told Socialist Worker. 'The best thing about the strike is the spirit and the character it has put back into all of us,' said another.
'After the first day of the strike we all went back to work and had a real laugh. It's been horrible for the past six months. This is the best time I've had here for the past 18 years.'