NEARLY 1,000 workers at Aerostructures in Hamble, near Southampton, took part in the first of a series of one-day strikes over pay on Monday. The dispute comes after union members rejected an offer of a 3 percent pay rise from Smiths Group, the multinational parent company, and voted by an overwhelming 87 percent majority to take action.
Workers are angry that the 3 percent they have been offered would mean taking a pay cut-their pension contributions have risen by 2.5 percent, and national insurance by 1 percent. As one worker on the picket line told Socialist Worker, 'All we're asking for is a fair pay offer. What we're being offered would mean going backwards, and there comes a point when enough is enough. Council tax bills are soaring, and we're being asked to take a pay cut! They're going to have to come back with a better offer.'
Last year Smiths Group recorded operating profits of £372 million, and the tightening of belts is clearly not a universal phenomenon at Aerostructures either-line managers at the plant recently received a 19 percent pay increase. 'If we got 19 percent we'd be skipping in to work!' one striker remarked. The strike involves four unions-Amicus, GMB, TGWU and Ucatt-and is the first at Aerostructures for 20 years.
The workers are determined to win. Out of 950 staff, only three crossed picket lines on Monday. Kev Coombs, Amicus convenor at the plant, said, 'It's three too many-but it shows you-we're not going to lose!' Further one-day strikes were planned for Friday this week, and then 19, 22 and 26 March.