Socialist Worker

Ten-day strike begins at DSG defence firm as workers tell bosses to 'get stuffed'

by Dave Sewell
Issue No. 2432

Defying the cold, wind and hail on the picket line in Sealand, north Wales, today

Defying the cold, wind and hail on the picket line in Sealand, north Wales, today (Pic: Adam Rose)

More than 700 Defence Support Group (DSG) workers walked out at Ministry of Defence (MoD) bases across Britain today, Monday. The Unite union members were beginning a ten-day strike against a real terms pay cut.

Everywhere workers reported bigger picket lines with more people joining the union. At Sealand in north Wales 22 workers—including new recruits—defied the cold, wind and hail to mount a confident and noisy picket line.

Another 25 braved sleet and subzero temperatures at the Stirling base in central Scotland. Stirling worker Chris told Socialist Worker,“We don’t want to be out here in this weather, but we’re standing strong. We’re going to win this.”

Up to 150 workers were at the gates of MoD Donnington in Shropshire.

Strikers were out in Stirling, central Scotland

Strikers were out in Stirling, central Scotland (Pic: Josh Brown)

Workers came prepared in Donnington

Workers came prepared in Donnington (Pic: Alan Kenny)

Catterick strikers said this is a shot across the bow for Babcock, the potential new private owner of DSG

Catterick strikers said "this is a shot across the bow" for Babcock, the potential new private owner of DSG (Pic: Steve Johnston)

Warminster warns well be out again

Warminster warns "we'll be out again" (Pic: Najah Bashie)


Unite convenor Brett Davis told Socialist Worker, “The atmosphere is just buzzing. Workers are taking ownership of the strike, not just waiting for instructions from the reps but taking the initiatives.

“One group started picketing early to make sure no scabs sneaked in, and there were already ten workers out before 5:30am. Others brought camping stoves to make everyone tea and hot chocolate.”

DSG workers repair and maintain military equipment. They are skilled engineering workers, but low paid compared to the private sector.

Pickets at Sealand were angry that while their pay hadn’t risen in years, the amount they had to pay into their pension funds had. The same pension funds assumed pay growth of 4.5 percent a year, making bosses’ offer of 1 percent look even more pathetic.

But this isn’t the only issue. The MoD hopes to sell DSG—along with its £67 million cash stockpile—to private firm Babcock. This could be followed by closures and job losses.

As one picket in Catterick, North Yorkshire, put it, “This strike is also a shot across Babcock’s bow. It will let them know we’ll stand up to our bosses, whether the ones we have now or others in the future.”

DSG has valuable equipment and workers with even more valuable skills. Instead of being sold off, these should be kept in the public sector and put to socially useful ends.

The bosses suspended DSG Bovington convenor Rod Thompson, for allegedly shouting at a scab. But they have now asked Unite to call off the strike as a show of “good faith”.


Brett said, “We told them to get stuffed, and when I reported that at the picket line there was a huge cheer. If they thought we’d come crawling to them with our tail between our legs they were very much mistaken.”

The current strike is the workers’ longest yet, and they are organising to sustain the action.

At Warminster in Wiltshire, Unite steward Barry Pow told Socialist Worker that picketing was planned for every day of the strike. A colleague added, “If they don’t come up with a suitable offer we’ll be out again in January.”

In Donnington the local trades council has backed a solidarity day on Thursday of this week, calling on supporters to bring their banners to the picket line and attend a public meeting in the evening.

A victory for the DSG workers could blow the Tories’ pay freeze wide open—and solidarity like this can make a big difference.

Thanks to Adam Rose, Josh Brown, Phil Jones, Steve Johnston

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