Socialist Worker

Settlement in sight for low paid Ambala workers

by Joseph Choonara
Issue No. 1955

Ambala workers have won respect and solidarity across east London (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Ambala workers have won respect and solidarity across east London (Pic: Guy Smallman)

As Socialist Worker went to press, workers at Ambala Foods in Stratford, east London, seemed close to reaching a settlement in their seven-week long battle for decent pay.

Management were considering a proposal from the workers for a pay rise for about 20 workers currently on the minimum wage. This has been a longstanding demand, and one that bosses had refused to concede before the strike began.

Some 45 Asian workers at the site, which produces Indian sweets for restaurants and specialist shops, began a series of one-day strikes after voting in April by 93 percent for action.

Three weeks ago they escalated, striking on Thursday and Friday of each week, as their bosses refused to budge.

Throughout the strike there have been militant pickets — with almost the entire workforce in attendance. Deliveries at the site were brought to a halt for two days each week.

The workers have won respect and solidarity from other workers in the area. Union reps from local Unison, RMT and other T&G branches have met with the strikers.

Initially the Ambala workers demanded a £50 a week pay rise to make up for three years without any increases.

They were disappointed not to achieve this rise, but said that their strike proved management could no longer take them for granted.

Naveed Choudhury, a T&G rep, spoke to Socialist Worker on the picket line on Friday of last week.

He said that the union was prepared to end the strike if the worst paid received a £20 a week rise.

“Some people didn’t want to agree, but they also don’t want the workers to be divided,” he added. “We are prepared to start the dispute again at a time when there is more demand for our products.”

Demand for the sweets produced by Ambala is highest during Muslim festivals. It is possible the workers will want to press for an across the board pay rise during the month of Ramadan — this Autumn.

Lokon, another T&G rep at the factory, added, “We’ve done our best in this dispute. We knew we were striking at the wrong time of year.”

But he added that he was happy that the worst paid would win out in the deal.

“We’ve been demanding a better deal for them for five years, but management always said, ‘No chance’.”

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Sat 11 Jun 2005, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1955
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