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Peter Hadden

Support Montupet Strikers

(May 1999)

From Socialist Voice , May–June 1999.
Transcribed and marked up by Ciaran Crossey.

The strike at Montupet which began over pay and conditions has developed into a bitter battle to stop victimisation and maintain union rights in this company.

The walk out was over the suspension of two fitters who were taking part in an official work to rule over this year’s pay claim.

From the beginning the company refused all efforts at negotiations and mediation. Even when meetings were set up through Joe Hendron and the Labour Relations Agency, the management, behind the scenes, were issuing new threats and intimidation.

From day one the company has tried to intimidate the workforce into submission. Every worker received a letter threatening dismissal. Strikers families were rung at night. Twenty workers, including all the shop stewards, ex-shop stewards and health and safely representatives were sacked.

The minibuses were hired to bring in scabs. At one point six minibuses were going through the picket, five of them empty! This did not stop management issuing lies to the media claiming over 200 people were at work.

When these attempts to break the strike failed the next step was writs of damage against the pickets, threats of injunction. Beyond this information has come from within the company that scabs are to be brought over from France.

The management have been encouraged in this approach by the role of the Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union (AEEU). who have attempted to organise a return to work of scabs. Without this encouragement from the union it is possible that the strike could have been won within days.

Montupet are a car components company who have big orders, especially from Ford. Millions of pounds of equipment is waiting to be installed to meet these orders. Yet the pickets have halted all deliveries to the plant, and the new machinery for this line which had come from France, was turned away when it arrived at the end of the first week. The factory has received lavish IDB grants – £147 million to date – and has been making around £4 million profit in each of the recent years. All this gives the workforce powerful leverage in this strike.

But instead of a victory Montupet have dearly seen an opportunity to break the union and demoralise the workforce. The sticking point is now the reinstatement of those who have been victimised.

An offer which did not include the re-instatement of all 20 would be worthless. It would mean no effective union organisation in the factory. Anything the management promised to get the workforce back could be taken away and more, once there was a return to work.

The Montupet workers, like the Liverpool dockers, are fighting against victimisation and for the right to organise. Every trade unionist, everyone in the working class communities should stand behind them.

Because there will be no support and no money from the AEEU it is up to rank and file trade union and community activists to raise the cash necessary to maintain this dispute. Weekly collections, levys must be organised.

If scabs are forced through the picket line other workers should support any calls for mass pickets to block them. If Montupet takes any striker to court for damages this must be seen, not as an attack on an individual, but on the trade union movement as a whole. It should be resisted with solidarity action including strike action.

The trade union leadership are not prepared to take the solidarity action necessary to win this dispute. But activists at shop steward and branch level would respond to a call from the Montupet workers. In tum this could put pressure on the leadership to give some support. The Montupet workers must not be left to stand alone. They must be given whatever solidarity action it takes to bring about a victory.

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Last updated: 30 August 2016