Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/584/7449

From The Socialist newspaper, 17 June 2009

Victory at Linamar! Rob Williams reinstated

ROB WILLIAMS, the Unite trade union convenor at the Linamar car components factory in Swansea, Wales, has won a stunning victory in his fight for reinstatement.
Rob, who is also a national committee member of the Socialist Party and vice-chair of the National Shop Stewards Network, was unjustifiably sacked on 28 April by management - who see the militant union fighter as a thorn in their side.
Rob is also well known for playing an important solidarity role in the recent Visteon workers' struggle. (Linamar acquired the Swansea Visteon plant in 2008).
Union members at the Swansea plant were due to take all-out strike action in defence of their convenor last Thursday (11 June) but Linamar caved in. Rob explains below how the dispute came about and the solidarity campaign that developed.

Dismissed

"On 28 April I was just about to leave work and happened to be around by the offices when I was asked to have 'a chat' with the HR [human resources] officer and with Brian Wade, the group president, and Rick Nelson, the plant manager. I thought they wanted to discuss the union's ongoing overtime ban but lo and behold Brian Wade told me that they were terminating my employment forthwith.

Taken aback, I replied: 'But I haven't committed any act of gross misconduct.' I was then told to leave the site and that if I didn't leave then they would send for the police!

I made it clear that I wasn't prepared to leave and that I insisted on being represented by my union officials. Then they called the police and five officers arrived. I locked myself in the union office and refused to leave until I was represented.

To their eternal credit the shopfloor walked off the job and surrounded the office to stop me getting arrested. It was a standoff. The union officers came on site. An agreement was reached that if the boys returned to work then talks would start between management and the union and my sacking would be suspended. Reluctantly, my members returned to work.

Over the next two days negotiations took place. It was agreed that the negotiations would be transferred to a meeting in London one week later and the Unite general secretary Tony Woodley would be involved.

However, at that meeting Brian Wade upheld the sacking. Earlier that day the company tried to stop workers taking any action on my behalf. They even removed the door from the union office!

This angered the workers and the union said it would rush through a ballot for strike action to get me reinstated. The ballot was a big success. On an 88% turnout, 88% voted in favour of all-out strike action.

The company thought it was time to take action against me because just prior to this we'd had 150 redundancies, leaving a workforce of about 200 workers. A few of those redundancies were senior stewards. The company must have felt in a stronger position and allied to this was the background of the ongoing economic recession."

Fightback

"Throughout this period we had regular shop stewards meetings and meetings with the union members outside the plant as well. After the ballot we thoroughly discussed our tactics.

To his credit, Tony Woodley came down to the plant and spoke to the members and that had a big impact on swinging the mood in favour of a strike.

All this was allied to a massive campaign waged outside the plant. Not just in Wales but on a national and international basis. There were a huge number of emails both of solidarity with me and emails complaining about my treatment to the company.

We had a public campaign including a massive public meeting in Swansea with over 250 in attendance - probably the biggest trade union meeting in the area since the 1984-85 miners' strike.

Speaking at that meeting alongside me were two Visteon convenors: Frank Jepson from Basildon, and Kevin Nolan from Enfield. Adrian my deputy spoke, the regional secretary of Unite, and Alec Thraves, the secretary of the Socialist Party in Wales. It was a fantastic meeting which gave a lot of confidence to the members in the plant.

We also organised a lunchtime meeting outside the plant on the following Sunday and despite the torrential rain over 150 turned up. We set up a hardship fund and in just five or six weeks the fund was nearing 10,000.

We were fully prepared to start the all out strike. I reckon that we would have had 250 or more trade unionists on the picket line on the first strike day. We had workers coming down to support us, including RMT transport union members, Honda workers from Swindon and Visteon workers. On the Saturday I think we would have had a massive demo in Swansea. The official trade union movement had mobilised in support."

Rob will be speaking at the National Shop Stewards Network in London on Saturday 27 June


Lessons for worker militants

Alec Thraves, secretary of the Socialist Party in Wales, explains what lessons can be drawn from Rob's case for workers facing similar struggles.

THERE ARE a number of factors that contributed to Rob's reinstatement and the union victory. Firstly, there was the determination of the union members. They refused to be intimidated by management and were prepared to take all-out strike action. Of course huge credit must go to the shop stewards - six stewards in the plant and a senior convenor. They all stood firm. Special credit must go to Rob's deputy, Adrian.

The union also knew that the Ford plant in Kansas City, USA, was desperate for the components that Linamar manufactures - the power take-off unit. Unite financed a trip for Rob and a union national officer to go to Kansas City to link up with the auto workers' union there.

In the last six or seven years the union in Linamar has developed solidarity with other workers - firefighters, postal workers, rail workers, civil servants, local government workers, etc. And that investment, so to speak, of genuine class solidarity meant that they reaped the benefits of that solidarity in the dispute.

At the present time, with the crisis in the car industry, taking action isn't easy but the starting point must be what is necessary to retain jobs and keep plants open and to keep reasonable standards of living. The Visteon workers could have simply walked away when their plants went into administration but they chose not to do that.

The construction workers on the power stations - starting in Lindsey oil refinery and finishing with Milford Haven - had to take unofficial action to win their struggle and now there is an official ballot taking place.

Every struggle is different but that means tailoring the particular action to the circumstance. Ultimately, in a plant that doesn't have a product in demand or is threatened with closure for other reasons then workers may have to go down the road of occupation like the Visteon workers.

This victory has given workers confidence. It shows that the trade union movement can take action and win. The union should be shouting this from the rooftops. We know that it's a difficult period for struggle but that means that we have to be more serious, more determined, or the alternative is that we lose and we lose big time.


How trade unionists are discriminated against

THIS STRIKE has raised serious issues for the workers' movement. Firstly, regarding the anti-trade union laws - especially in relation to unofficial action. On 28 April the only people who had broken the law was the company and yet the police were able to come on site and threaten to arrest Rob. His members took action to defend him which could have been construed as unofficial action and they could have lost their jobs.

Another issue is the employment laws. Companies can brazenly break the law, knowingly break their disciplinary procedures and yet no tribunal can force an employer to reinstate someone even if the company has been found guilty. The employment laws for workers are a joke.

Rob applied for 'interim relief' which means that he would be paid for the period between his sacking and the tribunal. And yet the company didn't contest this. Was this because their legal advisers concluded that they didn't have a case?

The anti-union laws raise the issue of the unions' political link with New Labour. After 12 years of Labour governments nothing has been done to reverse these discriminatory laws.

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.


In The Socialist 17 June 2009:

Tories or New Labour - it's cuts, cuts, cuts!

A rat on Labour's sinking ship

Prepare for class war!

News in brief


International socialist news and analysis

Iran - mass protests erupt

Only working class action can end war threat in Korean peninsula


Socialist Party editorial

Recent industrial disputes bring important lessons for the future


Postal workers

Standing up to bullying mail bosses

CWU conference: Fighting for jobs and working conditions


Lindsey Oil Refinery construction workers

Lindsey workers fight the bosses' redundancy scam


Socialist Party workplace news

Victory at Linamar! Rob Williams reinstated

National Shop Stewards Network conference

Tube workers on strike

Glasgow cleaners score success


Anti-racism

Defeat the BNP: Build a socialist alternative

Protests at BNP


Socialist Party review

Billy Bragg's Miners' Strike Tour


 

Home   |   The Socialist 17 June 2009   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate  




Related links:

Linamar:

triangleFighting the anti-strike legislation

triangleVisteon pensioners demand the pensions they have earned

triangleSwansea Linamar

triangleSwansea Linamar plant: Reluctant vote for redundancy

triangleLinamar announces closure in Swansea: Union prepares challenge

Rob Williams:

triangleCWU fights court attempt to stop national strike

triangleEscalate summer strike wave into coordinated action to defeat the pay cap

triangleFord workers vote for action

triangleBA poverty pay dispute enters new phase of action

Swansea:

trianglePowerful picture of the Port Talbot steel workers' struggle

triangleSocialist Students 'welcome' Hillary Clinton to Swansea

triangleSwansea Socialist Party: Art and Revolution

Socialist:

triangleConference on state spies and sabotage: who's watching who?

triangleHundreds turn out for rally aimed at removing west Wales Tory MP

Socialist Party:

triangle'Dazzling' Bad Art show points to socialist future

Wales:

triangleCardiff Socialist Students confront 'Parasite' Jacob Rees-Mogg

Shop Stewards:

triangleStrike together for better pay

National Shop Stewards Network:

triangleBirmingham: NSSN Solidarity Forum

Visteon:

trianglePotential new steel bosses refuse to take on pensions

Strike:

triangleWorkers' anger increases after Royal Mail bosses block strike - back postal workers

Unite:

triangleUnite local government sector plans strike ballot

Reports and campaigns

Reports and campaigns

18/10/17

Art

'Dazzling' Bad Art show points to socialist future

18/10/17

Democratic rights

Conference on state spies and sabotage: who's watching who?

18/10/17

Council

Sheffield Labour council threatens peaceful protesters with prison

18/10/17

South West Wales

Hundreds turn out for rally aimed at removing west Wales Tory MP

18/10/17

NHS

Uprising to save the NHS!

18/10/17

Socialism

Can you donate to the Socialism 2017 appeal?

18/10/17

East London

No cuts - hands off King George A&E!

18/10/17

North London

North London hospital workers fight cuts and job losses

18/10/17

Leeds

Striking back against the sackers' charter at Leeds University

18/10/17

BAE

Nationalise to save jobs at BAE Systems

18/10/17

Royal Mail

Workers' anger increases after Royal Mail bosses block strike - back postal workers

18/10/17

Schools

Schools "can't go any further" - stop the cuts: set deficit budgets now

18/10/17

PCS

PCS ballots members to send message to government: scrap the pay cap

18/10/17

Swansea

Socialist Students 'welcome' Hillary Clinton to Swansea

18/10/17

Local government

Unite local government sector plans strike ballot

triangleMore Reports and campaigns articles...


Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party

triangle13 Oct The end of the Tories?

triangle11 Oct Nasty party imploding...drive out the Tories

triangle11 Oct CWU fights court attempt to stop national strike

triangle11 Oct The fight against racial discrimination is tied to fighting against...

triangle11 Oct Catalonia: Workers can finish what Puigdemont won't

triangle6 Oct Boeing bust-up threatens thousands of skilled jobs

triangle4 Oct The nasty party turns on itself... but the Tories must be driven out

More ...

triangle18 Oct Warrington & St Helens Socialist Party: 1917-2017; the October Russian Revolution

triangle18 Oct Hackney Socialist Party: 100 years ago - the Bolshevik-led revolution

triangle18 Oct Tower Hamlets Socialist Party: Capitalism in Crisis - is Corbyn the answer?

triangle19 Oct Waltham Forest Young Socialists: Deaths in police custody

More ...

Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube

Archive

Archives:

October 2017

September 2017

August 2017

July 2017

June 2017

May 2017

April 2017

March 2017

February 2017

January 2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003

2002

2001

2000

1999

Legal

SP RSS feed RSS

Platform setting: = No platform choice

V2