Dundee workers occupy to fight for rights

Workers occupy to fight for rights

International Socialists build support for the workers

International Socialists build support for the workers

The occupation at the Prisme packaging factory in Dundee has continued into its sixth day. 12 workers have been sacked without notice. They were given their P45s along with letters stating that although the management accepted they were owed thousands of pounds: “Unfortunately, we do not have any money to make these payments to you.”

Philip Stott

The letters advised the staff to contact Citizens Advice and to go to a tribunal. The company hoped the workers would go home quietly. They were wrong.

On 4 March at 5pm, their last day of employment, the workers took the courageous decision to occupy the factory to demand what was due to them and to expose the shabby behaviour of the company directors. David Taylor, one of the sacked workers said: “They treated us like second class citizens and wanted to wash their hands of us – we were not prepared to accept this.”

Dundee workers at Prisme occupy to fight for their rights, photo International Socialists

Dundee workers at Prisme occupy to fight for their rights, photo International Socialists

The managing director resigned two days before the workers were sacked – probably in an effort to avoid liability. The solicitor representing the remaining director refused to tell the staff who owned Prisme, claiming the director was not the major shareholder.

After the workers investigated further it turned out that 85% of the shares had, up to a year previously, been transferred to a company GO Automatics which was registered at an address shared with a chartered accountants, Dand and Carnegie in Dundee. Alan Dand was named as a director of GO Automatics.

Despite trying to contact Alan Dand and being told variously that GO Automatics no longer existed and Alan Dand was no longer the director, the workers refused to give up. Members of Solidarity and the International Socialists went to the offices of Dand/Carnegie on 6 March and asked to speak to Alan Dand.

He refused to come out but we passed on the message that unless Alan Dand met with the workers we would have no choice but to come back with protesters and the media. He called the workers 20 minutes later and arranged to meet representatives of the staff that afternoon.

Inside the occupation, photo International Socialists

Inside the occupation, photo International Socialists

It now seems that Alan Dand as a chartered accountant held the shares for which he was being paid £3,500 a month by Prisme. This, it seems, was because the owners of Prisme feared the company was going to be in difficulties and wanted to protect themselves by transferring the shares.

It is estimated that they will have paid Dand’s company £40,000 for this service while claiming they have no money to make redundancy payments.

All this is apparently legal. It shows how company and employment laws are weighted heavily towards the bosses’ interests at the expense of the workers.

The workers’ defiant action has received national press coverage and huge solidarity from young workers, trade unionists and socialists across Scotland, Britain and internationally. They spoke at a meeting of the CWU in Dundee on 7 March, organised to highlight the scandal of Royal Mail privatisation.

Over £300 was collected at the meeting, many other donations have been made and solidarity visits to the factory from trade unionists in Dundee, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Edinburgh have taken place. A group of the workers travelled to Glasgow on 9 March to speak at a Solidarity public meeting with Tommy Sheridan and others.


Dundee workers at Prisme occupy to fight for their rights, photo International Socialists

Dundee workers at Prisme occupy to fight for their rights, photo International Socialists

Members of the International Socialists and Solidarity have been heavily involved in supporting the workers’ occupation as well as organising political support. “The support we have had has been brilliant, it has made us feel a million times stronger.

“We have had people sleeping over with us, bringing food, organising collections. We would still be waiting now to speak to Alan Dand if you had not gone down to his office to demand action.”

The occupation has shown that workers will not be walked over by the bosses and employers. As David Taylor says: “We were not militant people – just little people who refused to be little anymore. We stood up for what we believe in and we are all proud of that.”

The workers have demanded that the company books be opened to inspection to see the real state of the company. While pursuing their legal rights for the full payment of what they are due, a number of workers have now agreed to pursue the possibility of setting up a workers’ cooperative to ensure a continuation of employment.

Messages of support should be sent to: 07970 875455 or email prismeworkerssolidarity@googlemail.