A workers’ revolt has stopped a return to work at a Wiltshire engineering company owned by Sir James Dyson, Britain’s richest man.
One worker at the Malmesbury plant told Socialist Worker, “It bubbled up when we were just ordered back with no notice. It was a very angry response.”
Company management told staff who were working from home to return to the office this week.
But they were forced to cancel the plan a day later when workers angrily rejected the move.
Two emails sent by group chief executive Roland Krueger, seen by the Guardian newspaper, confirm that all employees were informed they should start returning to work.
The return proposal would have meant many having to travel to the firm’s factories at Hullavington and Malmesbury even if they were able to work from home.
In an email sent by Krueger the next day, the company said it had “reviewed the practicalities” and decided not to implement the proposal.
One staff member, who spoke to the Guardian on condition of anonymity, said the company had caved in after a furious reaction from its workforce.
“Everyone was very unhappy,” said the source. “It was pretty rough. As a company we were pretty proud of James [Dyson] a few weeks ago, trying to make a difference with the CoVent [medical ventilator] project.
“But then in a few weeks it’s all turned around. If they’d had their way, there would have been 2,500 people in the office and I’d estimate 60 percent of those could work from home with a low impact.”
It’s a major reversal for a firm owned by Dyson, who was revealed in the Sunday Times Rich List last weekend as Britain’s wealthiest man. He is said to have a fortune of £16.2 billion.
He is also, according to Farmers Weekly website, Britain’s biggest farmer. Part of his wealth is tied up in Beeswax Dyson Farming, an agricultural business with more than 14,000 hectares of land—the equivalent of over 25,000 football pitches.
Steve Turner, assistant general secretary of the Unite union, said, “This is an important example of how many employers will interpret weak, unclear and confusing messages about a safe return to work from government.
“In the case of Dyson workers who should still be working from home, they have been able to collectively push back against their employer.
“Unite will back to the hilt any of its members who find themselves in this position and would encourage all workers to stand together, act in solidarity like those at Dyson and stay safe in these difficult times to help us all save lives.”
But far too often union leaders are buying into the idea that getting “Great Britain PLC” back to work means accepting a speedy return to work.
That inevitably means profits come before health.
The revolt we have seen over schools reopening in England has to be carried much wider into encouraging a generalised rebellion against unsafe working.
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