Support is sweeping in
THE 120 factory workers at Team Valley Brush in Gateshead have launched a support group with the help of the Socialist Alliance on Tyneside after three weeks on indefinite strike. The dispute began after workers were offered an insulting pay rise of 1 percent on their miserable �3.08 an hour.
Company chairman Peter Wheeldon refuses to pay the minimum wage as the basic hourly rate, so workers have to rely on overtime and bonuses to make up their wage. "He still thinks women go out to work for pocket money," says picket Kathleen Hope, "and now he's advertising our jobs for �3.70 an hour at Blaydon job centre."
The strikers have won tremendous support from local workers. Nearly �500 was donated or pledged at the support group launch meeting, with contributions from UNISON, MSF and GMB union branches, Gateshead Trades Council, the Socialist Alliance, former Spartan Redheugh steel workers, and many individuals.
Kenny Bell, secretary of Newcastle council UNISON branch, chaired the meeting, which over 50 strikers attended.
He urged strikers to attend the rally for a living wage in Manchester on 28 April. Kenny Bell introduced Terry Rodgers, Socialist Alliance prospective parliamentary candidate for Tynebridge, and said, "There is a meltdown of local government with the drive to privatise nearly all core services. Questions must be asked about unions' support for the Labour Party."
Other speakers included Shirley Winter, who organised support for the Magnet strikers two years ago, and Yunus Bakhsh from UNISON's Newcastle City Health branch and a member of its national executive committee. Six strikers raised nearly �250 outside Gateshead Civic Centre the following day.
"We've been invited to go to Glasgow to collect," says Kathleen Hope, "and four of the lasses have agreed to go up this week." Solidarity can help these strikers turn the screw on management. "This is a strike we can win," says shop steward June Patterson.
- Tony Dowling
- Donations payable to Team Valley Brush Hardship Fund, 58 Park Terrace, Swalwell, Gateshead NE16 3BU.
- Solidarity rally: Tuesday 3 April, 7.30am, Swalwell Bank, Gateshead