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Rolls Royce action called off
THE NINETY six striking test bed engineers at Rolls Royce in Bristol have now returned to work. This follows an unsuccessful attempt to broaden the strike across the entire plant in order to force the management to reinstate sacked Amicus convenor Jerry Hicks.
Robin Clapp, TGWU Bristol
Despite widespread support from the Bristol site, as well as solidarity from workers in sister factories in Glasgow and Derby, the ballot for new strike action was defeated by a 70-30 margin, leaving Rolls Royce bosses declaring that Hicks would never be taken back.
Dire warnings were given by the company that prolonged industrial action would put at risk a planned £75 million investment programme that is supposed to secure jobs for the next 20 years. This factor obviously weighed heavily in workers' minds.
The settlement shows that the bosses were eager to resume normal business. Their intention from the outset was to rid themselves of an effective convenor. Their strategy was high-risk, but from their perspective a small price to pay.
The deal with Amicus involves the test bed workers each receiving a bonus of two weeks' pay to clear the backlog of engines, while Hicks has reluctantly accepted a pay-off cheque for £100,000, as well as his full wages until March 2006.
Notwithstanding the no-victimisation assurance in relation to the striking 96, this struggle marks a defeat for a highly organised workforce. The anti-trade union laws have once again acted as a restraint upon workers responding immediately and effectively to company provocations.
Amicus may be in discussions with the TGWU and the GMB to form a super-union, but its reputation depends upon its ability to defend members' wages and conditions and prevent bosses from removing activists at will. Sadly, that reputation will not have been enhanced by this episode.
In The Socialist 22 September 2005: