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20 May 2009

Defending trade union rights

Reinstate Rob Williams!

Rob Williams at the National Shop Stewards Network meeting after the Jobs demo in Birmingham called by the Unite trade union, photo Paul Mattsson

Rob Williams at the National Shop Stewards Network meeting after the Jobs demo in Birmingham called by the Unite trade union, photo Paul Mattsson

On 13 May, Swansea trades council and the Linamar shop stewards' committee, held a marvellous meeting in support of sacked Linamar convenor, Rob Williams, a long-standing Socialist Party member

Dave Reid, Socialist Party Wales

250 workers crowded in, bringing together the best of the labour movement in South Wales but also the fresh experience of struggle of car workers from all over southern England.

Visteon workers from Enfield and Basildon travelled to join ex-Visteon workers in Swansea as well as delegations from Ford Bridgend, Honda in Swindon, the RMT in Wales and the South West, the CWU, PCS, the UCU and other unions.

Adrian "Chicken" Evans, deputy convenor at Linamar explained why the company needed Rob out of the way: "When Linamar took over the plant last July they promised to retain the terms and conditions. But now they have sacked the convenor and tried to change the terms and conditions.

"It's no good for us if that plant is working on minimum wage conditions. We have no choice. If we don't fight they'll take our terms and conditions."

Alec Thraves, a Unite member and secretary of Socialist Party Wales, pointed out: "If this tin-pot company gets away with sacking the convenor in one of the best organised workplaces in Wales the other companies will be queuing up to attack stewards and union organisation... Our message to Linamar is 'You have taken on the wrong union and the wrong convenor.'"

Jerry Hicks, who introduced himself as the: "Proud, sacked convenor of Rolls Royce bringing solidarity from the workplace from which I was sacked", pointed out that: "All the actions at Enfield, Basildon and Lindsey Oil Refinery were illegal and all won victories."

Ex-Visteon convenors at the jobs demo in Birmingham called by the Unite trade union, photo Paul Mattsson

Ex-Visteon convenors at the jobs demo in Birmingham called by the Unite trade union, photo Paul Mattsson

The meeting was inspired by the struggle of Visteon workers at Belfast, Enfield and Basildon, who won huge concessions from Visteon and Fords by illegally occupying their plants. Frank Jepson, Unite convenor at Basildon said: "We will take their money but we won't go away... We are determined to stop it ever happening again - no more governments sucking up to big business. No more trade union officials working with the employers. We fought Visteon and won."

Kevin Nolan, Unite convenor at Visteon Enfield got the loudest cheer when he attacked the Labour government: "Tony Blair said he would improve employment laws for workers and I, like many others, believed he would, but he lied. Unite gives this Labour government 13 million. I wouldn't give them a penny."

Rob explained how his background has shaped his ideas, describing how he discussed and debated with his grandfather, Glyn Williams, president of the South Wales area of the National Union of Mineworkers and a Labour Party member for 75 years. "He was a moderate because he thought we were more civilised than in the 1920s and 1930s. He thought we would never return to the time when he was sacked and blacklisted for being a union man. Now after all these years his grandson is sacked for being a trade union convenor after 12 years of a Labour government."

On 17 May, the meeting was followed up by around 150 trade unionists, Swansea councillors and Welsh Assembly Members gathering outside the Linamar plant with their banners, pledging financial and practical support for the struggle to get Rob reinstated.

Despite being threatened with disciplinary action, a delegation from the small Sunday shift came out to the gates in solidarity. The protest was called to show the 200+ workers that the trade union movement is fully behind their fight with this vicious, anti-union company.

Rob thanked the demonstrators for their support: "Because if they succeed in sacking me then no convener or shop steward would feel secure!"

Rob, as a delegate from Swansea trades council, will be moving an emergency motion at the Wales TUC this week. This will send a further message to the Linamar Canadian cowboy director Brian Wade, that he has bitten off a lot more than even he can chew!

Messages of protest to:, messages of support to:
Donations to the campaign to: Linamar workers hardship fund, 31 Waun Wen Terrace, Swansea SA1 1DX, please make cheques payable to T&G 4/1 branch or direct to account no: 20055051, sort code: 08 60 01.

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