Some 120 mostly Asian women workers at Chemilines pharmaceuticals factory in north west London are set to take a second day of strike action on Wednesday of this week.
The workers, members of the GMB union, are demanding a decent pay rise and the reinstatement of 25 or so colleagues who have been laid off.
The new action follows a one-day strike on 16 December last year. Another one-day strike scheduled for 22 December was suspended for talks with management, but these made no progress.
Chemilines is owned by multimillionaire brothers Ravi and Jagdish Karia. They pay their workforce less than £6 an hour to repackage medicines and cosmetics bought from abroad for sale on the domestic market.
Last month workers unanimously rejected an offer of a 1 percent rise each quarter tied to meeting unrealistic productivity targets. They are demanding 4.6 percent a year with no strings attached.
The strike on 16 December saw extraordinary scenes of mass picketing by the Chemilines workers. They turned back several delivery vans. There was a constant stream of car horns from people driving past the site.
GMB union rep Hiten Vaidya told Socialist Worker that he was very pleased at the solidarity shown by drivers who refused to cross the picket line. “As workers they are standing shoulder to shoulder with Chemilines workers,” he said.
The mood was lively and militant. The strength of the strike clearly rattled the managers, who called the police to the picket line.
Last month’s attempts at negotiating came to nothing when the brothers refused to meet with GMB officials.
A mass meeting of workers held last Sunday raised the possibility of escalating to a week-long strike if Wednesday’s action fails to move management.
Local trade unionists, including teachers in the NUT union and bus drivers in the Unite union, have been organising solidarity for the Chemilines workers. GMB branches across London have also donated to the strike fund.
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