Two major disputes taking place in Britain today dispel the myth that workers won’t fight over pay in a recession.
Workers at the Coca-Cola bottling plant in Edmonton, north London, struck for two days for the fourth week running on Wednesday and Thursday of last week.
Meanwhile, Unite union members at Tyneside Safety Glass in Gateshead announced a two-week strike beginning on Monday of next week.
Workers there held a week-long strike last month.
They are furious at their bosses who have imposed a pay freeze for the second year running.
Coca-Cola bosses have offered a 2 percent pay rise—effectively a pay cut as it is below inflation.
Pay is the issue that sparked the strikes, but a deep pool of bitterness underlies them.
Workers are sick of years of attacks on their pay, hours and conditions.
At Tyneside Safety Glass, new shift patterns have added ten hours to some people’s working week. Bosses have also cut sick pay.
And Unite says that bosses have even said they want to break the union at the site.
Unite’s regional officer Bill Green said, “Over the past two years our members have been intimidated and bullied.
“The employer has openly informed our shop stewards that they intend to break the union.”
Coca-Cola workers also say that bosses are undermining their union.
One striker told Socialist Worker, “We’ve had a series of meetings with management where they’ve tried to treat the union as a third party entity that invades the factory, causes trouble and goes away.
“They don’t want to negotiate anywhere along the line.”
Coca-Cola workers have walked out for six hours a day on Wednesdays and Thursdays for the past four weeks. Now there are signs that their fight could spread.
Unions from across Europe met in Brussels on Tuesday of last week to discuss their response to Coca-Cola’s plans for over 400 job cuts across the continent.
They called a day of action for Wednesday 27 October.
Unite national officer Jennie Formby said the unions are planning “coordinated action beginning with demonstrations at the end of October”.
Unite should use its muscle to make the day of action effective.
But it will need more strike action to force the bosses to back off. Militant and united action can win.
Tyneside Glass: Send messages of support and donations to Bill Green c/o Unite Offices, John Dobson Street, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 8TW
Coca-Cola: Send messages of support to firstname.lastname@example.org