By Salma Iqbal
Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 1885

The pickets return to Land Rover

This article is over 20 years, 5 months old
Nearly a thousand workers on the picket line. And that was before the one-day strike at Land Rover's Solihull and Gaydon plants called for Monday of next week.
Issue 1885

Nearly a thousand workers on the picket line. And that was before the one-day strike at Land Rover’s Solihull and Gaydon plants called for Monday of next week.

The astonishing picket last weekend was to enforce an overtime ban, which Land Rover workers have been staging since before Christmas in the run-up to their first strike in 15 years.

An overtime ban has generally been regarded as a low-key form of action. The Land Rover workers have turned it into a show of force over the last few weekends in their battle over pay.

Nine hundred workers from different sections of the Solihull plant and across the three unions – the TGWU, GMB and Amicus – were united on the protest on Saturday. On the Sunday morning some 150 pickets turned out.

A comment from one worker is typical of their feelings. Jerry Cooney said, ‘We have got to do something. Life is becoming unbearable. Everybody is under pressure and morale is very low-that’s why it has come to this. It’s not just about pay – it is the bits that go with it, the hidden agenda. We have decided to take a stand.’

The dispute over pay has been running since November last year when workers overwhelmingly rejected the company’s 6.5 percent pay rise, spread over two years. Workers are after pay parity with colleagues at Jaguar, as both companies are part of the Ford group.

In addition to refusing to work overtime, workers began a ban in January on flexible working, which is part of the system of ‘annualised hours’.

The numbers supporting picket lines have grown over the last three weekends from 150 to nearly 1,000.

The police and management have erected large barriers near the gates. The pickets responded by draping a banner reading ‘Welcome to Camp X-Ray’, a reference to the US prison in Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

The pickets were pleased to hear that people locally were supporting them. Many were keen to have messages of support and trade union banners brought down. Management says it is considering moving work to China, possibly closing the plant.

But many workers say they feel the closure threat is empty. Some also expressed anger that the New Labour government is not standing by workers who confront this intimidation.

As one worker said, ‘The threat by management to close the plant if industrial action continues brings into question Blair’s whole project of ‘listening to the people’.’

The workers’ militancy is increasing. The one-day strike on Monday is about stepping up the pressure. Some people have talked about lightning walkouts.

Land Rover workers’ national union leaders – Tony Woodley of the TGWU, Derek Simpson of Amicus and Kevin Curran of the GMB – were elected with high hopes that they would lead a fight against just such bosses.

The unions need to build on that mood of militancy to ensure the Land Rover workers get a victory.


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