Sacked workers from the Two Sisters food processing giant brought their protest to London last week.
Around 50 Asian workers from the meat processing plant in Smethwick, in the West Midlands, held a noisy demonstration outside Marks & Spencer’s flagship store in central London on Wednesday of last week.
Two Sisters supplies meat to Marks & Spencer as well as Tesco and other major high street chains.
It was the latest protest in the workers’ campaign against the sacking of 59 people at the plant following an alleged racist incident last month.
A Unite union steward says that he was racially abused by a security guard at the factory but that managers then took no action against the guard, and instead suspended the steward.
More than 50 workers walked out in protest and were later sacked by the company.
The company has denied that the sackings are related to racism, but issued a statement saying that the workers were dismissed for taking part in an “unconstitutional strike”.
Saqib Javid, one of the sacked workers, told Socialist Worker, “Standing up for your rights is very important. If the company get away with this, who will be next?
“Protesting is the only way we are going to be heard.
“Every company says that it supports ‘Equal Opportunities’, and so does Two Sisters. But we were sacked for standing up to racism.”
Saqib explained that the plant in Smethwick employs a lot of Asian workers – many of them new migrants to Britain.
“This is devastating,” he said. “People have children to support and mortgages to pay.”
The Two Sisters firm is huge. It has 13 factories in Britain, plus plants in the Netherlands and the US. It boasts that its annual sales exceed £650 million.
The company’s owners Ranjit and Baljinder Singh were valued at £110 million after tax by Management Today, which ranked the couple sixth in its 2007 list of “Top Entrepeneurs: the Premier League”.
A queue of passers-by stopped to sign petitions in support of the workers. Margaret Forest was one of them. “I think it’s outrageous – these workers should have their jobs back,” she said. “It’s really wrong what has happened here.”
As the workers gathered for photographs, Jack Dromey, the Unite deputy general secretary, took centre stage.
But with the company bosses digging their heels in, it is clear that more than roving street protests will be needed if the union is to match the brave stand of the sacked workers and win justice.