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Peter Hadden

Carreras – unions must defend jobs

(March 1980)

From Militant Irish Monthly , Issue 81, March 1980.
Transcribed and marked up by Ciaran Crossey.

In their policy document Jobs – an action Programme the leaders of the Northern Ireland Committee of the ICTU call for resistance to redundancies.

The workers of the Carreras cigarette plant at Carrick must wonder why these bold calls are not put into practise by, some at least, of the Trade Union officials.

At the beginning of the year Carreras announced a £12 million investment plan. The net result of this investment was to be a loss of 400 jobs. In order to bribe the workers to accept the proposal they offered a 6% productivity scheme.

When the workers threatened to resist and oppose the job losses the Company retaliated by warning that either the 400 jobs would go or the company would pull out. At this stage union officials intervened. The ITGWU persuaded its members to accept. When AUEW men still held out and threatened action against the company proposals their full-time official, Jimmy Graham, visited the plant, cajoled them to accept, and finally organised a ballot where he received a majority in favour of the redundancies.

After the ballot result, Hugh Ewing, TGWU official, commented: “We are pleased that all the unions have agreed and will work and cooperate with the company in building a healthy future for the Carrick plant.”

Officials “pleased”

Jimmy Graham is not only known as a senior official of the AUEW. He is also a well-known local leader of the Communist Party. His comment on the ballot result and on the redundancies was:- “While we are not satisfied with the terms which the company has offered, the union officials are pleased that the members have accepted their advice in this instance and did not throw the baby out with the bathwater. We are delighted that the investment has been. secured because it is investment that is the problem in Northern Ireland.”

90,000 unemployed

Most recent forecasts predict a rise in unemployment to 90,000 by the end of 1980. If the Carreras experience is an example of the resistance which Trade Union leaders, even the so-called “left”leaders of the Communist Party, are prepared to offer, workers have just cause for concern.

Trade unionists must insist that the fine words of opposition to redundancies in the ICTU policy document be put into effect as part of a campaign of action to save jobs. No redundancies! If there is a reduction in the amount of work available, then share the work with no loss in pay. If companies like Carreras can’t provide jobs then, instead of backing their investment drive begin a campaign for their nationalisation.

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