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From The Socialist newspaper, 25 November 2009

Superdrug dispute

Workers show industrial action can win victories

Workers from the Superdrug distribution centre in South Elmsall, West Yorkshire voted to go back to work this week after almost four weeks of strike action. The Unite union recommend the workers vote yes to return to work after an improved offer from management.

Steve Faulkner, South Elmsall

Despite the workers making concessions to management in premium and overtime payments, the offer which has been accepted is in stark contrast to the first 'offer' prior to the strike action. While some workers looked like being up to 40 a week worse off, this has been reduced to 10.

Existing terms and conditions have been kept. Management's attempts to start all the workforce on new terms and conditions - regardless of the number of years of service - was seen as an attempt to save the company money in redundancy payments in the future.

While some workers were willing to stay on strike longer, and questions will be asked about what else could have been won, the feeling among much of the workforce is one of victory. "We can hold our heads up high", said one worker, who added: "They will think twice about attacking us again in the future."

This was the first ever involvement in an industrial struggle for many who participated in the strike. It will have given them a taste of what can be achieved through standing up to a bullying management. Workers, told before they were on strike that they would be sacked, now know that through united, coordinated action, power can shift towards the workforce.

Organise for the future

As the recession continues to bite, management will look for further opportunities to make cuts, particularly with the growth of supermarkets which now account for much of what was once Superdrug's market.

The attacks on wages and conditions will not end here, making the need to organise for the future, particularly with Superdrug's Dunstable warehouse workers, of paramount importance.

If just 260 workers going on strike for four weeks could force a major high street brand (parented by a Hong Kong conglomerate), to stand up and take notice, imagine what an organised working class, with proper political representation could achieve.

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