By Sophie Squire
Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 2910

Electric picket lines in Coventry as black cab makers strike

‘When we stop working, production stops’ says striker Paul
Issue 2910
a crowd shot of the picket line at the Coventry electric black cab taxi strike

Workers who make electric black cabs in Coventry strike (Picture: Sean Leahy)

Workers at the London Electrical Vehicle Company (LEVC) had big picket lines on Thursday.

The Unite union members, who make electric black cab taxis and other cars at Ansty Park in Coventry, are demanding a pay rise. They also began an overtime ban this week. 

Paul, who works at LEVC building electric cars, told Socialist Worker, “We’ve never had a decent pay rise in the eight years we’ve been at the factory in Ansty Park. 

“Pay has gone down and down past where it should be. The union ran some numbers and found that it was almost 20 percent below the industry average. Our pay is now only about £2 or £3 more than the hourly minimum wage. 

“We are asking for a 5 percent pay rise and a £1,000 lump sum. At first the bosses offered us a 3.5 percent rise and a £350 taxable lump sum. Workers rejected the offer. 

“Then they offered us an extra £50 lump sum. The workers thought this was insulting—what’s an extra £50? It’s not even a weekly food shop for a family. It wouldn’t even pay a bill. 

“Finally, we got offered a 4 percent rise with a £500 lump sum, but the bosses said this wouldn’t be back-paid to January and we’d only get back pay from April.

“They said this was their final offer. Workers rejected again and voted to strike.” 

Paul explained that years of stagnating pay have pushed workers to get organised. He said they recently elected new union reps and started having much bigger union meetings. Union membership at the factory rose from 30 to around 100. 

“People joined the union to be part of this action,” he said. “Now when we have a union meeting the shop floor shuts down. 

“Managers made fun of us saying there weren’t enough union members to make a difference. But now when we stop working, production stops.”

Paul added that unity among the workforce meant the picket lines on Thursday were big. “The mood inside the factory has been bad. We feel like the bosses have taken us for granted,” he said. “But the picket lines were great. Everyone felt good. We’re more united than ever.” 

He said that workers are sick of bosses who blame them for bad sales. “But even though they can’t sell the cars, the top bosses are still getting bonuses,” he said. “The bosses want us to accept less because the business is struggling.

“What they don’t seem to understand is that we’re struggling. Many of us can’t afford to run a car to get to work every day.” 

After just one day of strikes, the bosses at LEVC said they would sit down for negotiations starting next week. But Paul said that workers are ready to keep striking if they don’t get the offer they want. 

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