The stand-off at the gates of Mayr Meinhof Packaging (MMP) in Bootle entered its second week last Saturday.
“We’re trying to defend our redundancy terms and a stable future for the factory,” said Phil Potter, father of the Unite union chapel. “And we’ve been locked out by the company.”
Inside is up to £2 million worth of time sensitive stock. When bosses locked the factory to move stock out last week, 50 workers rushed the gates and occupied for two hours.
Since then the gates have remained shut.
Bosses won’t let workers in—although they are terrified of the word “lockout”, and insist that it is only for the purposes of an inspection.
And workers won’t let anything out. Dozens of pickets assemble at the factory gates every day, and they have called a further five strike days starting on Wednesday.
The dispute started when the company announced redundancies on much worse terms than those previously agreed.
And it used a new “matrix” system to select staff for the chop—which workers describe as subjective and unfair.
One picket told Socialist Worker, “They were hoping it would split the factory down the middle, but it’s just galvanised everyone.”
And they are having an impact. There are reports of packaging shortages affecting production at Kellogg’s in Wrexham.
Unite members in nearby Deeside, where MMP hopes to move work, have made donations to the strike fund. They could soon be balloted to join the action too.
Workers have contacted their colleagues in other European countries to make sure they don’t pick up work from Bootle.
And they have been speaking at union and campaign meetings in the region to raise support.
MMP is now holding crisis talks in advance of negotiations planned for Wednesday.
It has already begun to make some concessions. But workers are right to hold out for more.
MMP is the largest company of its kind in Europe, with more than enough money to settle workers’ demands.
Unite general secretary Len McCluskey visited the picket line last Saturday.
“If MMP does not see sense then we will have no choice but to escalate our campaign for justice,” he said.
There is nothing to stop workers from occupying again—and staying in.
To send messages of support, request a speaker for your union meeting or make donations to the strike fund, contact firstname.lastname@example.org