Linamar Public Meeting
18th December 2008With fourteen thousand jobs being lost in Wales over the past few months, many of those in manufacturing, the media interest in a Swansea public meeting called by the Linamar (Ex Visteon car component plant) shop stewards committee reflected the fact that these workers are the first group prepared to launch a fight back to save their jobs whilst at the same time calling on other trade unionist for support and a united struggle against this jobs slaughter. The campaign and Linamar meeting was covered as the lead story on BBC Wales TV news and received extensive coverage in the Welsh press.
The Swansea trade union movement responded magnificently with around 100 Linamar workers, local trade unionists, friends and family packed into the Dolphin Hotel to hear an inspiring rallying call for action against job cuts from Socialist Party member and Linamar UNITE convener, Rob Williams.
Linamar want to make 208 workers accept 'voluntary redundancy' - over half the workforce - and have offered a generous redundancy package, which is a recognition of the militant reputation of workers in the plant.
Those few, lucky enough to be able to walk straight into another job, may be tempted by the tens of thousands of pounds on offer but for the vast majority of Linamar workers the prospect of losing a well paid manufacturing job and being thrown on the dole in this economic climate is not very appealing.
Workers at the meeting explained that they had already started to look at the employment prospects in the area and it was grim to say the least!
The big cash payments would quickly be eaten away because most redundant workers would not be able to claim benefits. If they couldn't find any work their redundancy pay would be used instead of state benefit payments until it runs out.
Rob Williams highlighted the success that previous militant action had achieved in the plant over the past 3 years in retaining jobs, pay and conditions against a determined employers' offensive.
This new battle against an anti union employer will be just as difficult but as Rob said "There are no guarantees - If you fight you still may lose but if you don't fight you will definitely lose"!
Some of the Linamar workers who spoke were scathing of their full time officials who despite being invited to address the meeting failed to attend. Second hand apologies for non attendance when hundreds of jobs are on the line just confirmed to members how inadequate their full time trade union leadership has become after many years of 'partnership' deals and 'concession bargaining' with the employers.
When it comes to organising a fight back they echo the whimpering excuses of their New Labour partners and say 'It's a global economic crisis - what can we do'?
If they had come to the meeting they would have heard their members forcefully tell Labour Welsh Assembly Member, Brian Gibbon, exactly what to do: - put pressure on Gordon Brown and "Nationalise threatened manufacturing industry in the same way as he bailed out the billionaire bankers"!
However, the absence of UNITE full time officers was more than made up for by the attendance, support and solidarity from other car workers, a Communication Workers Union national leader, UNITE, UNISON, PCS, NUJ and other workplace reps as well as the Secretary and Chair of Swansea Trade Union Council.
On behalf of the Linamar shop stewards committee Rob thanked the audience for their support and urged all trade unionists in both the public and private sectors, to help campaign for an official trade union lobby of the Welsh Assembly in the New Year to defend jobs.
In manufacturing industry, there will also be pressure for an official meeting of shop stewards from across Wales to hammer out a common strategy against job cuts and to support threatened workplaces.
If obstacles are put in the way of such initiatives then the meeting believed that unofficial action would be necessary. Thousands of jobs have already gone; tens of thousands more will be threatened next year and this successful meeting provided the beginnings of a serious, organised and militant fight back.
Secretary Socialist Party Wales.
Swansea Trade Union Council.