Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page: https://secure.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/584/7449

From The Socialist newspaper, 17 June 2009

Victory at Linamar! Rob Williams reinstated

ROB WILLIAMS, the Unite trade union convenor at the Linamar car components factory in Swansea, Wales, has won a stunning victory in his fight for reinstatement.
Rob, who is also a national committee member of the Socialist Party and vice-chair of the National Shop Stewards Network, was unjustifiably sacked on 28 April by management - who see the militant union fighter as a thorn in their side.
Rob is also well known for playing an important solidarity role in the recent Visteon workers' struggle. (Linamar acquired the Swansea Visteon plant in 2008).
Union members at the Swansea plant were due to take all-out strike action in defence of their convenor last Thursday (11 June) but Linamar caved in. Rob explains below how the dispute came about and the solidarity campaign that developed.

Dismissed

"On 28 April I was just about to leave work and happened to be around by the offices when I was asked to have 'a chat' with the HR [human resources] officer and with Brian Wade, the group president, and Rick Nelson, the plant manager. I thought they wanted to discuss the union's ongoing overtime ban but lo and behold Brian Wade told me that they were terminating my employment forthwith.

Taken aback, I replied: 'But I haven't committed any act of gross misconduct.' I was then told to leave the site and that if I didn't leave then they would send for the police!

I made it clear that I wasn't prepared to leave and that I insisted on being represented by my union officials. Then they called the police and five officers arrived. I locked myself in the union office and refused to leave until I was represented.

To their eternal credit the shopfloor walked off the job and surrounded the office to stop me getting arrested. It was a standoff. The union officers came on site. An agreement was reached that if the boys returned to work then talks would start between management and the union and my sacking would be suspended. Reluctantly, my members returned to work.

Over the next two days negotiations took place. It was agreed that the negotiations would be transferred to a meeting in London one week later and the Unite general secretary Tony Woodley would be involved.

However, at that meeting Brian Wade upheld the sacking. Earlier that day the company tried to stop workers taking any action on my behalf. They even removed the door from the union office!

This angered the workers and the union said it would rush through a ballot for strike action to get me reinstated. The ballot was a big success. On an 88% turnout, 88% voted in favour of all-out strike action.

The company thought it was time to take action against me because just prior to this we'd had 150 redundancies, leaving a workforce of about 200 workers. A few of those redundancies were senior stewards. The company must have felt in a stronger position and allied to this was the background of the ongoing economic recession."

Fightback

"Throughout this period we had regular shop stewards meetings and meetings with the union members outside the plant as well. After the ballot we thoroughly discussed our tactics.

To his credit, Tony Woodley came down to the plant and spoke to the members and that had a big impact on swinging the mood in favour of a strike.

All this was allied to a massive campaign waged outside the plant. Not just in Wales but on a national and international basis. There were a huge number of emails both of solidarity with me and emails complaining about my treatment to the company.

We had a public campaign including a massive public meeting in Swansea with over 250 in attendance - probably the biggest trade union meeting in the area since the 1984-85 miners' strike.

Speaking at that meeting alongside me were two Visteon convenors: Frank Jepson from Basildon, and Kevin Nolan from Enfield. Adrian my deputy spoke, the regional secretary of Unite, and Alec Thraves, the secretary of the Socialist Party in Wales. It was a fantastic meeting which gave a lot of confidence to the members in the plant.

We also organised a lunchtime meeting outside the plant on the following Sunday and despite the torrential rain over 150 turned up. We set up a hardship fund and in just five or six weeks the fund was nearing 10,000.

We were fully prepared to start the all out strike. I reckon that we would have had 250 or more trade unionists on the picket line on the first strike day. We had workers coming down to support us, including RMT transport union members, Honda workers from Swindon and Visteon workers. On the Saturday I think we would have had a massive demo in Swansea. The official trade union movement had mobilised in support."

Rob will be speaking at the National Shop Stewards Network in London on Saturday 27 June


Lessons for worker militants

Alec Thraves, secretary of the Socialist Party in Wales, explains what lessons can be drawn from Rob's case for workers facing similar struggles.

THERE ARE a number of factors that contributed to Rob's reinstatement and the union victory. Firstly, there was the determination of the union members. They refused to be intimidated by management and were prepared to take all-out strike action. Of course huge credit must go to the shop stewards - six stewards in the plant and a senior convenor. They all stood firm. Special credit must go to Rob's deputy, Adrian.

The union also knew that the Ford plant in Kansas City, USA, was desperate for the components that Linamar manufactures - the power take-off unit. Unite financed a trip for Rob and a union national officer to go to Kansas City to link up with the auto workers' union there.

In the last six or seven years the union in Linamar has developed solidarity with other workers - firefighters, postal workers, rail workers, civil servants, local government workers, etc. And that investment, so to speak, of genuine class solidarity meant that they reaped the benefits of that solidarity in the dispute.

At the present time, with the crisis in the car industry, taking action isn't easy but the starting point must be what is necessary to retain jobs and keep plants open and to keep reasonable standards of living. The Visteon workers could have simply walked away when their plants went into administration but they chose not to do that.

The construction workers on the power stations - starting in Lindsey oil refinery and finishing with Milford Haven - had to take unofficial action to win their struggle and now there is an official ballot taking place.

Every struggle is different but that means tailoring the particular action to the circumstance. Ultimately, in a plant that doesn't have a product in demand or is threatened with closure for other reasons then workers may have to go down the road of occupation like the Visteon workers.

This victory has given workers confidence. It shows that the trade union movement can take action and win. The union should be shouting this from the rooftops. We know that it's a difficult period for struggle but that means that we have to be more serious, more determined, or the alternative is that we lose and we lose big time.


How trade unionists are discriminated against

THIS STRIKE has raised serious issues for the workers' movement. Firstly, regarding the anti-trade union laws - especially in relation to unofficial action. On 28 April the only people who had broken the law was the company and yet the police were able to come on site and threaten to arrest Rob. His members took action to defend him which could have been construed as unofficial action and they could have lost their jobs.

Another issue is the employment laws. Companies can brazenly break the law, knowingly break their disciplinary procedures and yet no tribunal can force an employer to reinstate someone even if the company has been found guilty. The employment laws for workers are a joke.

Rob applied for 'interim relief' which means that he would be paid for the period between his sacking and the tribunal. And yet the company didn't contest this. Was this because their legal advisers concluded that they didn't have a case?

The anti-union laws raise the issue of the unions' political link with New Labour. After 12 years of Labour governments nothing has been done to reverse these discriminatory laws.

Donate to the Socialist Party

Coronavirus crisis - Finance appeal

The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

  • The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
  • Our 'fighting coronavirus workers' charter', outlines a programme to combat the virus and protect workers' living conditions.
  • When the health crisis subsides, we must be ready for the stormy events ahead and the need to arm workers' movements with a socialist programme - one which puts the health and needs of humanity before the profits of a few.
Inevitably, during the crisis we have not been able to sell the Socialist and raise funds in the ways we normally would.
We therefore urgently appeal to all our viewers to donate to our special coronavirus appeal.

Please donate here.

All payments are made through a secure server.

My donation

 

Your message: 

 


In The Socialist 17 June 2009:

Tories or New Labour - it's cuts, cuts, cuts!

A rat on Labour's sinking ship

Prepare for class war!

News in brief


International socialist news and analysis

Iran - mass protests erupt

Only working class action can end war threat in Korean peninsula


Socialist Party editorial

Recent industrial disputes bring important lessons for the future


Postal workers

Standing up to bullying mail bosses

CWU conference: Fighting for jobs and working conditions


Lindsey Oil Refinery construction workers

Lindsey workers fight the bosses' redundancy scam


Socialist Party workplace news

Victory at Linamar! Rob Williams reinstated

National Shop Stewards Network conference

Tube workers on strike

Glasgow cleaners score success


Anti-racism

Defeat the BNP: Build a socialist alternative

Protests at BNP


Socialist Party review

Billy Bragg's Miners' Strike Tour


 

Home   |   The Socialist 17 June 2009   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate  




Related links:

Linamar:

triangleFighting the anti-strike legislation

triangleVisteon pensioners demand the pensions they have earned

triangleSwansea Linamar

triangleSwansea Linamar plant: Reluctant vote for redundancy

triangleLinamar announces closure in Swansea: Union prepares challenge

Rob Williams:

triangleWorkers fighting to defend safety and livelihoods - NSSN national meeting a huge success

triangleWorkers' safety before bosses' profits

triangleSocialist Party Facebook Live: The fight for PPE & workers' rights

triangleBuild union resistance to Tory attacks

Swansea:

triangleSwansea Socialist Party: Capitalism's economics con

Socialist:

triangleKen Douglas

triangle3rd June anti-racist demonstrations across Britain

Socialist Party:

triangleBradford Socialist Party: Black lives matter - How we build a fightback

Wales:

triangleGoing viral - Socialist comments and letters

Shop Stewards:

triangleNational Shop Stewards Network conference

National Shop Stewards Network:

triangleNSSN: Workers' safety before profit!

Visteon:

triangleVisteon: when factory occupations stayed the hands of the bosses

Strike:

triangle1920s Britain: A "country nearer Bolshevism than at any time since"

Unite:

triangleFight continues for safety on London buses

Reports and campaigns

Reports and campaigns

5/6/20

Obituary

Ken Douglas

4/6/20

Black Lives Matter

3rd June anti-racist demonstrations across Britain

3/6/20

Equity

Equity union general secretary election

3/6/20

Socialist

Pandemic doesn't stop Socialist Party educating organisers: northern meeting

3/6/20

Labour Party

Blairite general secretary elected - Starmer's takeover of Labour Party consolidated

3/6/20

Racism

Fight racism and class inequality, fight capitalism!

3/6/20

Covid

Hospital closed following rampant spread of Covid-19

3/6/20

JCB

Coordinated union struggle needed to save jobs and nationalise JCB

3/6/20

PCS

PCS pay claim: Vital work unrecognised

3/6/20

Schools

Schools... no going back until it's safe

3/6/20

UCU

Reject the university employers' offer on pay, workload and casualisation

3/6/20

Buses

Fight continues for safety on London buses

27/5/20

Fighting Fund

We need readers' support to fight capitalist crisis

27/5/20

Ferries

Fight P&O's billionaire bosses' jobs cut plan

27/5/20

Schools

Schools aren't safe

triangleMore Reports and campaigns articles...


Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party
Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube

LATEST POSTS

CONTACT US

Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777

Email: info@socialistparty.org.uk

Locate your nearest Socialist Party branch Text your name and postcode to 07761 818 206

Regional Socialist Party organisers:

Eastern: 079 8202 1969

East Mids: 077 3797 8057

London: 07748 534 891

North East: 078 4114 4890

North West 079 5437 6096

South West: 077 5979 6478

Southern: 078 3368 1910

Wales: 079 3539 1947

West Mids: 024 7655 5620

Yorkshire: 077 0671 0041

ABOUT US

ARCHIVE

Alphabetical listing


June 2020

May 2020

April 2020

March 2020

February 2020

January 2020

2019

2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003

2002

2001

2000

1999