SOLIDARITY works-that's the clear lesson from Tyneside this week. Thousands of shipyard workers walked out on strike on Monday of last week in solidarity with 98 sacked workmates. This forced management to reinstate the workers and open talks on pay, the issue that sparked the dispute.
The sacked workers were employed by subcontractor C&D at the Swan Hunter and Amec shipyards on the Tyne. They had seen their wages fall behind those of equivalent workers among the 2,800 directly employed workers at the Tyne yards. Repeated requests for talks over the issue got nowhere, so the C&D workers staged stoppages. Management sacked the 98 workers. The sacked workers responded in the best possible way, by picketing the yards on Monday of last week.
In a magnificent display of solidarity the entire workforce at Swan Hunter and at Amec walked out on strike. The action was unofficial and some union officials denounced it. Fortunately workers in the yards had better instincts than their regional officials. Within hours a flurry of calls and meetings saw a sudden movement from management.
The C&D workers are rightly cautious about the pay talks, waiting to see the colour of C&D's money before celebrating victory. But they are also determined to win £11.30 an hour.
Ken Rogan, a sheet metal worker and union steward, says, 'We are not going back to work with our tails between our legs. But we have nothing to celebrate yet. We have two weeks to talk about how, not if, we are getting the £11.30.' There could be wider battles looming on the Tyne.