Socialist Worker

Defence Support Group strikers look to escalation to win 8 percent

by Dave Sewell
Issue No. 2425

Stopping traffic at the Donnington picket

Stopping traffic at the Donnington picket (Pic: Socialist Worker)

The fight for better pay at Defence Support Group (DSG) began in earnest this week.

Workers across the group struck alongside other civil service workers on Wednesday.

Yesterday, Thursday, pickets gathered at the Ministry of Defence (MoD) bases in Donnington near Telford and Sealand in north Wales.

The Unite union members are fighting for an 8 percent pay rise.

DSG carries out repairs and maintenance on army equipment. Workers from other unions across the bases expressed their support.

Thursday’s walkouts were the start of action staggered between sites until the end of the month. The Stirling and Catterick sites are set to walk out next Thursday, and other sites the following Thursday.

Alan Johnson, a fitter and new union rep at Donnington said, “There’s been really positive feedback about the action. I believe we’ll be out again. It would be good to go to three days to show them we are serious.”

In the background is a privatisation plan that raises the spectre of redundancies and other attacks.

Stirling DSG workers struck last Wednesday and are out again next week

Stirling DSG workers struck last Wednesday and are out again next week (Pic: Ronnie Simpson)

The government tries to sell its plan with the promise that working for private bosses could mean getting more work by taking on more private contracts. But up until just a few years ago, DSG workers also serviced civilian equipment—from trains to council road gritters.

The best way to bring in more work would be to let them do so again without privatising the company.

Workers are also furious about the pay freeze. One told Socialist Worker he hadn’t been able to put the heating on yet this year.

Mechanical worker Parmjit Singh said, “I think the whole working class keeps getting kicked. We all need to stand together—doesn’t matter what people look like or where they come from—and stand up for proper pay.”

There are union posters for 8 percent around the site—some of them even altered by workers to say 18 percent.

Steve a union rep said, “We read that the average wage for skilled workers was 18 percent higher than what we were on, so some of us thought we should ask for that. But we weren’t sure everyone would back it, so we went for 8 percent.

“Setting our own demand instead of waiting for management’s offer in pay negotiations made a difference. It’s encouraged people and helped get really organised.”

Union rep Paul Eagles added, “Someone told me it wasn’t a realistic figure. So I asked him, what made you think that 1 percent was a realistic figure?”

Unite convenor Brett Davis told the strikers to cheers, “Today we didn’t do what the bosses say, we did what we say. We said we’re not going in your factory for your shitty pay.”

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