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Peter Hadden

Climbdown by Montupet bosses

(June 1997)

From The Socialist [UK], 20 June 1997.
Transcribed and marked up by Ciaran Crossey.

Last Friday 150 Montupet strikers and trade unionists rallied in support of the four Montupet strikers threatened with imprisonment for defying a court injunction banning them from the picket line. In the event the company did not enforce the committal proceedings resulting in a victory for the strikers.

This retreat by Montupet reflects the growing pledges of support from workers in Belfast for industrial solidarity action should any striker be jailed.

Although the injunctions still apply, the company’s unwillingness to pursue punitive legal action shows that defiance and industrial solidarity can render the anti-union laws unenforceable.

The strikers’ action contrasts markedly with the role played by trade union officials. Terry Carlin, the Northern Ireland officer of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU), behind the backs of the strikers, struck a deal with the company that meant the 20 sacked strikers would not be reinstated but should accept a £3,000 pay-off. It was presented to the strikers as a final offer.

This “offer” was rejected by the strikers who ripped up the ballot papers and stuffed them through the ICTU office letter box. Carlin subsequently issued a statement referring to the strikers’ actions as an “unruly mob”.

Despite the “final offer” claim by ICTU officials it now seems likely that the company will hold “proximity talks” with the strikers. The strikers are insistent that the first issue is the re-instatement of the sacked workers before any talks on pay and conditions, the original cause of the dispute, take place.

The strikers’ own union, the Amalgamated Electrical and Engineering Union (AEEU), has played a disgusting role, with the regional official Peter Williamson encouraging scabbing and now circulating a letter to AEEU branches which is full of falsehoods on the strike.

This dispute can be won but the strikers must have the support of other workers, especially financial support. But they also need workers to bring pressure to bear on the AEEU by submitting resolutions to the union calling for support for the strike.

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