Socialist Worker

Carpet makers in Cleckheaton roll into third month of pay strike

by Tomáš Tengely-Evans
Issue No. 2688

Workers on the night shift picket line in Cleckheaton on Monday

Workers on the night shift picket line in Cleckheaton on Monday (Pic: Socialist Worker)


Workers at Westex Carpets in West Yorkshire are in an all-out fight to pull the rug from under bosses’ feet.

Around 70 Unite union members at the factories in Cleckheaton and Dewsbury began the third month of an indefinite walkout this week.

They are fighting for a pay rise after bosses refused to give the usual 3 percent increase—despite taking £5 million in profits.

Kamran, a Unite rep and twisting machine operator, was on the picket line in Cleckheaton when the night shift began on Monday.

“We’ve been going for more than two months and everybody is strong,” he told Socialist Worker.

The strikers have mounted picket lines outside the main gate during all the morning and night shift changes.

They are a powerful show of working class unity and an antidote to the divide and rule of the Tory government.

Dave, another Unite rep who was on the morning shift, told Socialist Worker, “It’s been solid since day one. “On the first day a couple of people did cross as you would expect, but the rest have been solid.”

Dave says it’s because workers are “firm in the belief that it’s a just cause”.

“The negotiations began in September and they offered us a 2.25 percent pay rise,” he explained.

“We have been paid 3 percent pay rises yearly and the company had no dip in profits so it seemed to defy common sense.

“After we rejected the 2.25 percent they took the offer off the table and proposed a pay freeze. Which is a bit petty.”

Yarn

Bosses have spun a yarn that they can’t afford the higher pay rise, but workers don’t buy it.

As Kamran said, “They’re still making profit and they don’t give us anything. The bosses at Westex only care about themselves.”

Mazur, who has been at the factory for 18 years, explained that “piece work” means workers sometimes only get the minimum wage.

“If you hit the targets you can get £10 an hour and it can be good,” he told Socialist Worker. “If you don’t, it’s only the minimum rate.”

Mahbul, another long-time Westex worker, added, “Everything is expensive and it’s going up.”

On top of pay, some workers are angry that bosses have intensified the work.

Ibrahim told Socialist Worker, “It’s very hard work at the factory. They give everybody two machines to work.”

Another worker explained that a few years ago, one machine would have one operator. Bosses have dug their feet in, are hiring new workers, and have managed to ride out the busier Christmas period.

They made no concessions at talks at the Acas conciliation service last week.

Workers have been buoyed by support from trade unionists across West Yorkshire and residents. This has to be built wider across the labour movement.

The Unite national leadership should make it a dispute of national significance.

And trade unionists, campaigners and socialists across Britain need to raise solidarity and money for the Westex workers.

Tweet support to @Kelvin1mawer or email [email protected]

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