AROUND 450 workers at luxury car maker Aston Martin struck for three hours last week. It was the first strike in the company's history. Workers at the company's two plants are angry over the introduction of what they call 'Martini' shifts-a reference to an advertisement for the drink which could be enjoyed 'any time, any place, anywhere'.
They believe the company wants that sort of flexibility from them. More than 450 production workers at Newport Pagnell, near Milton Keynes, where the Vantage model is manufactured, and Bloxham, near Newbury, struck last week. A production worker told Socialist Worker, 'We work for this very prestigious company but behind all the glitter and the razzmatazz there's the reality of a really hard job for not much money.'
John Street, regional official for the TGWU, warned there could be longer strikes if the company refuses to negotiate. Management wants employees to adopt a flexible system of working. This means that they could be required to work extra hours with a day's notice and come in occasionally on Saturdays.
'My members are telling me that they have never worked on Saturdays and see it as a day they spend with their families. They are not prepared to give it up,' said John Street.
Aston Martin cars sell for between £100,000 and £165,000, but the workers do longer hours for less money than other colleagues in the Ford luxury cars group, of which Aston Martin is now a member.
Aston Martin production staff are paid up to £18,000, some £2,500 less than colleagues at Jaguar, another Ford subsidiary. They work 39 hours a week compared with an industry norm of 37.