Socialist Worker

Defence Support Group workers escalate pay strikes

by Dave Sewell
Issue No. 2430

Defence support Group workers’ picket line in Stirling in Scotland

Defence Support Group workers’ picket line in Stirling in Scotland (Pic: Josh Brown)

Defence support group (DSG) workers struck at Ministry of Defence (MoD) bases across Britain this week.

The Unite union members walked out for four days from Monday.

Workers are stepping up their fight for an 8 percent pay rise, which could blast a hole in the Tories’ 1 percent pay freeze.

Unite steward Barry Pow works at the Warminster site in Wiltshire. He explained why workers are going for 8 percent.

“We worked out that we’ve lost out to the tune of 18 percent over the last four years, so we want more than 1 percent now,” he said. 

Another picket added, “DSG has made £67 million, and they should pay up in full.”

The picket line was big and lively despite wind and rain. This picture was replicated on other sites, with 15 pickets in Colchester, Essex and eight in Catterick, north Yorkshire.

In Stirling in central Scotland, mechanics, painters, sheet metal workers and white collar workers stood shoulder to shoulder on two vibrant picket lines.

Delivery drivers and bin lorries refused to cross. Unite convenor Ronnie Simpson praised the support for the strike from other workers and the local community.

He said, “We want to send a clear message of solidarity to all DSG workers on strike. 

“We can win this if we continue to stick together and stay strong.”

The workers were boosted by the recent victory by Unite members at St Mungo’s Broadway (SMB) homelessness charity. 

This was announced to DSG union reps during a meeting with officials in London.

Striker Chris said, “Every victory is important, and every bit of support is really appreciated because you don’t want to feel like it’s just your workplace out fighting on its own.”


There were around 100 pickets at Donnington in Shropshire, where a mass meeting of workers had first backed the idea of a four day strike.

Unite convenor Brett Davis told Socialist Worker, “The mood is amazing—very upbeat. 

“The reports from all the sites are that picket lines are bigger. 

“Here we have people who only joined the union last week and are already on the picket line.”

Bosses’ attempts to bribe people back to work with overtime had backfired. 

They showed that bosses had enough money to try and break the strike. 

So strikers asked why there is not enough to meet their demands. The workers maintain and repair military equipment. DSG is currently part of the MoD, but bosses are seeking a “smooth transition” to new private owners.

Potential buyers will be worrying about taking on a company in dispute.

This piles on pressure to meet the strikers’ demands.

Brett argued that stepping up to a four-day strike had made all the difference. 

He explained, “No one wants to cross a picket line, but with a one-day strike they can book leave if they don’t want to join the action.

“A more sustained walkout means they have to choose which side they’re on—they strike or they scab.

“We’ve shown that we’re not playing, we’re serious about winning.”

Thanks to Josh Brown, Phil Jones, Martin Lynch, Steve Johnston and Raph Piggott. Send messages of support to [email protected]

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