Socialist Worker

Michelin workers standing up to the rubber barons

by Simon Sobrero
Issue No. 1944

Tired of paltry pay: Michelin workers are demanding a better deal (Pic: Simon Sobrero)

Tired of paltry pay: Michelin workers are demanding a better deal (Pic: Simon Sobrero)

Workers at the Michelin plant in Stoke-on-Trent held a three hour lunchtime demonstration on Tuesday of last week in protest at a paltry pay offer by management.

Margaret Armstrong, regional industrial organiser for the T&G union, said that action short of a strike had started on 11 March, with a continuous overtime ban and withdrawal of cooperation meetings.

“We are holding this lunch-time protest to drive home to Michelin’s UK management just how frustrated and upset our members are about the derisory pay offer,” she said. “The offer is for a 3 percent increase on pay, but this is unconsolidated. This has a knock-on effect in that it is not included in calculations for pensions contributions.

“If you look at the background, the site has seen job losses year after year, with pay eroded and allowances withdrawn.”

Rob Taylor, T&G convenor at the Stoke site, said, “We are not rejecting the 3 percent pay offer itself, but the fact that it is unconsolidated.

“Four years ago there were 1,423 redundancies. At the time we also accepted a four year pay deal that saw three of those years with only a small amount of pay consolidation. They have made many promises, but now it is time for the company to repay us properly. They offered us a one-off lump sum, but this is not enough.”

The protest was held outside Michelin’s UK headquarters, with a total of 200 union members from a number of shifts. A yellow union bus came to bring flags and banners, including one written in French. “Workers at the Stoke plant in England demand more significant pay increases,” it declared.

A mass meeting was due to be held this week to decide on future industrial action. This may include striking if the company does not come forward with a new offer.

One of the warehouse workers commented that 10,000 people used to work there, but now there were only a few hundred jobs left. Wages for factory and warehouse work were different, he added, which was demoralising for those employed there.

He said he did not feel confident enough for strike action, but would vote in favour of continuing the overtime ban.

Another worker was confident that a majority at the site would be prepared to strike:

“They think that this lump sum of £650 will make us happy, but we’ve refused it three times unanimously. So the management does know what we want.

“We have already been balloted for strike action in January — 81 percent voted for action short of strike and 64 percent voted to go on strike if the offer wasn’t improved.”

Phone messages of support for the Michelin workers to the T&G’s Stoke-on-Trent office on 01782 219 800

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Sat 26 Mar 2005, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1944
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