Merseyside Cammell Lairds shipbuilding workers walk out 23 November, photo Hugh Caffrey, photo Hugh Caffrey

Merseyside Cammell Lairds shipbuilding workers walk out 23 November, photo Hugh Caffrey, photo Hugh Caffrey   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

Hugh Caffrey, North West Socialist Party regional secretary

26 November was the first day of rolling strikes by ship-building workers at Cammell Laird in Birkenhead, Merseyside, bringing the yard to a halt.

No significant amount of work was done, despite pickets telling us telling us that migrant workers had been intimidated by the bosses. Meanwhile outside the yard Unite and GMB union members and their local supporters rallied in strength.

The dispute is over job losses, the company is threatening workers with unemployment in the run-up to Christmas. Workers at the yard won improvements to their terms and conditions in a major dispute recently, and this looks like a case of bosses’ revenge.

Cammell Laird is 75% owned by giant company the Peel Group, which owns a lot of land and property in Birkenhead. The rest of the shares are held by five directors. Through 2016-2017, £10million in profit was received by the shareholders.

Yet now apparently the company says it cannot afford the £300,000 it would cost to keep employing 91 workers who otherwise will be made redundant, despite turning down work that would have delivered a £400,000 profit.

Anyone would smell a rat, and the unions believe that the employer is looking to casualise the workforce with increased use of agency workers and zero-hour contracts.

The strike has huge support from across the trade union and labour movement. Wirral council is apparently considering withdrawing cooperation with the Peel Group, which would be a major blow.

Unite regional officer Ross Quinn said: “Cammell Laird bosses should be in no doubt of the determination of the workforce to defend their jobs and take a stand against these unnecessary job cuts that could see people out of a job before Christmas.

“Unite members will not sit back and allow their livelihoods to be casualised for bosses’ own cost cutting ends.

“Unite put a proposal to management using the company’s own figures proving that the company could avoid dismissing anyone until at least February allowing time for additional contracts in the offing to be secured and come on stream. Instead bosses have signalled their intent to press ahead with their callous plans.”

Three weeks of Monday-Friday strike action has begun, with pickets outside the gates. We urge all supporters to visit.

  • Using the hashtag #TurningTheTideOnCasualisation, the unions have established a petition and a fighting fund