Hull caravan workers strike
Fighting for dignity and respect
NEARLY 500 caravan workers in Hull started an all-out strike on Monday morning. Over 250 of them were on the picket line. Willerby Holiday Homes is the biggest caravan manufacturer in Britain. It's also in the parliamentary constituency of deputy prime minister John Prescott. The workers, members of UCATT, have had enough. Management have introduced 12-week contracts for new starters, they're bringing in agency workers, and they won't give the union a full time convenor.
"This is not about greed," said a picket on Monday morning. "The workers on 12-week contracts have no holiday pay, no sick pay, no rights, nothing. After 12 weeks are up they are being re-employed two weeks at a time. You can't live like that. If this company gets these terms, every caravan firm in the area will follow. It will spread like foot and mouth. You can't trust the bosses to give you a fair deal. That's capitalism for you-trampling all over the working class."
Workers voted by 82 percent to strike after staging an unofficial walkout. They know the company made �10 million profit last year and that order books are full. "The managers are bullies and dictators," said another picket. "They treat us like school kids. There is no factory canteen. We get a half-hour dinner break and we just eat where we work-in all the dust and the dirt. There isn't even a hot drinks machine, just cold ones."
Eddie, who used to be a shop steward, says, "There is no dignity and no respect in 12-week contracts or agency labour. We've got a government that keeps boasting about how unemployment is falling. That's no good if jobs are all through agencies paying �4 an hour. We want proper jobs, full time contracts for full time labour. The government is a disgrace. All it is interested in is manipulating the figures. It's like going back to the 1930s when there were pools of labour. I don't want that for my son or daughter. I don't want them getting telephone calls saying, 'No, we don't want you today'"
"We're going to stick this one out," said Phil, another picket. "We can't afford to lose it. The consequences are too devastating, especially for the younger workers who haven't got families yet. What will happen to them when they go for a mortgage? How will they get a loan to go on holiday? I've been here 14 years. I'm probably safe. But I'm doing this for other people."
- Sam Ashman
- Messages of support and donations c/o Stuart Emms, UCATT Office, High Street, Hull.