Construction workers at Fiddlers Ferry in Widnes stayed out all last week in support of the Lindsey workers. Morale dropped a bit on Wednesday as news filtered through that Sellafield had returned to work, especially as some workers received their repudiation notices from Unite that morning. Some workers were commenting that they were "out on a limb" if the action was unofficial.
However, they stayed firm and on Thursday the news that Coryton in Essex had joined, and that some Sellafield workers had come back out, and also the strong support from GMB lifted spirits. And there was some good news - local Unite officials had won an employment tribunal stemming from a previous dispute at the site, which led to the dismissal of four men. The tribunal had ruled for their reinstatement.
On Friday morning the news reports were all the same - firstly Michael Jackson's sad death, and second, that a settlement was in view for Lindsey. It was very noticeable that by lunchtime the settlement at Lindsey had been more or less censored out of the news reports.
We then waited from 7am to 9am when the stewards got the confirmation news from Lindsey. A gate meeting was convened and one of the visiting Lindsey stewards gave a short but very effective speech thanking the lads, reminding them what they were all fighting for. He thanked Fiddlers Ferry especially as one of the first sites to support Lindsey.
Local stewards advised the men to be back Monday morning at 7am, ready for work. "We came out with Lindsey and we'll go back with Lindsey".
On Monday morning at 7am the workers assembled at the gate. Messages arrived from Lindsey and the GMB members returned. However the electricians, Unite members, still had disputes concerning outstanding unpaid hours and the reinstatements ordered by the tribunal.
The confusion arises from their status as agency workers for sub-contractors, and their return to work was delayed, as the main contractors, the subbies and the employment agencies attempted to shift responsibilities between each other.
The GMB members are directly employed by their companies, but the electricians are employed through agencies. One of the men told me how sometimes you cannot be sure who your employer (in a legal sense) actually is.
Phone calls were made but no definite news emerged and the Unite full-time official was called in for talks. Eventually about 11am the electricians went back in having secured the reinstatements. It was a messy end to the dispute which just shows the difficulties created for working people by this crazy system of sub-contracting and agency labour.
GMB official John Wilson spoke to the meeting just before LOR construction workers voted unanimously to return to work with every demand won. He said that the men should be proud of what they had achieved. Regarding the unofficial strike action he stated: "there's bugger all wrong with spontaneity".
The men marched back to work with the GMB trade union banner leading the way and with Unite flags flying. The lads marched from the meeting at the car park, turned right onto the main road stopping the traffic, and then took a victorious sharp turn to the left and marched to the LOR gateway. They faced the TV cameras singing their victorious song: "Here we go! Here we go! Here we go!"
Singing, I accompanied my husband to the LOR gates, where we stopped to applaud the rest of the 'wildcat strikers'. They triumphantly marched in solidarity back to work smiling, with a resolute manner.
The lads shouted their thanks to us, the women who had supported their stance and as I kissed my husband and watched him enter the LOR gates with John McEwan I turned to his partner Pat and together we proudly marched back down the road.