The inspirational occupation of the Prisme packaging factory in Dundee is winning huge support from the people of the city and far beyond.
The factory’s 12 workers went into occupation on Wednesday 4 March after they arrived at work and were given letters telling them they were being made redundant. The company told them that, although they were entitled to severance payments, it did not have any money to pay them.
The workers promptly occupied. They have become a symbol of resistance to the economic crisis.
On Friday of last week Liam O’Rourke, a worker from Waterford Crystal in Ireland visited the occupied factory in Dundee. Waterford Crystal workers are in the 7th week of an occupation of their plant to keep it open.
Liam spoke at a meeting of trade unionists, students and workers where he drew the links between the Waterford and Prisme occupations. He said, “We had 800 on our sit in – we now have 812. Everyone in Waterford knows about Dundee.”
Liam suggested tactics that the workers could employ.
They could raise money and support from the crowds at local football grounds. The factory is near both Dundee and Dundee United’s grounds.
Liam said, “The people at the game are working people, your people.”
He also said that “students are a vital cog” in any support network, as has been seen in both Waterford and Dundee.
He urged the workers at Prisme to join a trade union to broaden the support available to them.
“The unions aren’t the people at the top but the people on the ground,” he said. “The unions in Ireland are as one and now we have the government on its knees.”
Prisme workers are discussing sending a delegation to the Put People First march against the G20 world leaders’ meeting in London on 28 March.
Liam stressed that “there’s a time and a place to stand up and it’s coming. Do everything you can now.”
David Taylor, who was a packaging designer at the company, told the meeting, “When the director knew that Prisme was going to cease trading he told me that he wanted to start a new company.
“He asked me and one of the other skilled workers if we would work for him. But we refused. It’s been really important that we stand together. Some things are more important than money.”
Hayley, a community education worker, and her daughter Marnie, a care worker, leafleted for the Prisme workers outside polling stations during a council by-election last week.
Hayley told Socialist Worker, “I feel totally inspired by the solidarity of the workers at Prisme standing together against the bosses.”
Marnie added that the occupation was “a message to folk across the country – you don’t have to take what’s given to you”.
Craig, a student from Dundee university, added, “The Prisme workers are doing the right thing.”
Messages of support and collections from workplaces have been flooding in to the occupation.
David said that he had spent over two and a half hours answering emails from supporters.
He said, “We are really grateful and appreciate the emails and messages of support. It gives us the strength to continue and keeps spirits up.”
The UCU lecturers’ union has donated over £500, including £200 from the Dundee university branch. A workplace collection at the Remploy factory for disabled workers in the city raised around £90.
The Scottish Housing branch of the Unite union sent a cheque for £300.
Its branch secretary wrote that the occupation “is an inspiration to other workers resisting the impact of the bosses’ crisis.
“Hopefully other workers will follow your example and demand that the trade union leaders encourage and support such resistance.”
There is a need for the fightback to spread, both locally and nationally.
The cash machine manufacturer NCR announced last week that it was entering a 90 day consultation on the loss of the last 250 manufacturing jobs at its Dundee plant.
This was followed by the closure of Texol, one of the major suppliers to NCR, with the loss of 40 jobs.
But the spirit of the Prisme workers shows that ordinary people can fight back against job losses and resist being made to pay for the crisis.
Prisme: send messages of support to firstname.lastname@example.org Donations can be made out to “TUC Lobby Fund”, and sent to Prisme Workers Solidarity, c/o Mike Arnott, Dundee TUC, 141 Yarrow Terrace, Menzieshill, Dundee, DD2 4DY
Waterford: send messages of support and donations to Unite Hall, Keyzer Street, Waterford County, Waterford, Republic of Ireland, phone 00353 5187 5438, or email email@example.com