'WE WERE just herded out onto the streets.' So said Jeanette Dearden, one of 700 workers at two Viasystems factories on Tyneside who have been thrown out of work.
Another 850 workers at the printed circuit board maker's Tyneside plants fear they too could be on the dole and the factories shut before Christmas. Some 200 of the already sacked workers marched through South Shields, where one of the plants stands, on Saturday.
They were bitter about what has happened to them, and furious at union leaders who have, in the words of sacked worker Paul O'Brien, 'been no help'. Paul had worked at the South Shields plant for 11 years. Then suddenly 'when I tried to clock in I found out my job had been terminated'. Harry Lamb had worked at the plant for 20 years.
He says, 'Now I've got no redundancy payment and I've had no pay for the last month I worked here.' The workers organised Saturday's march. Union leaders, in the GMB and AEEU, refused to back it.
GMB officials held a meeting later in the day instead, at which they were give a rough ride by furious workers. One worker spoke of how they were being sacrificed while the bosses were still enjoying fabulous wealth: 'Hicks, one of the board, is the 400th richest man in the US.
'The US is asking for help to fight terrorism, but what is happening to us is company terrorism.' Margaret Stephenson had worked for 13 years at the South Shields plant, and like many others there has family and mortgage commitments: 'There's just no fairness in it, no consideration for our livelihoods. The job centre sends us for jobs at £4.40 an hour, but I need £200 a week to cover my commitments.'
Viasytems workers are caught between wanting to fight to save their jobs, and fear at doing anything that might jeopardise legal moves to at least get redundancy pay.
Dave Little was one who had no doubts as to the best solution: 'We should take industrial action and picket the factories if we are serious about getting justice and saving jobs.' That's right. Trade union leaders should be encouraging action everywhere jobs are under threat instead of simply wringing their hands at what is happening to jobs across Britain.