Left Luggage

The socialist strategy site

Militant trade unionist sacked

Posted by Left Luggage on May 7, 2009

As we reported previously, Rob Williams, Unite trade union convenor at Linamar Swansea and vice-chair of the National Shop Stewards Network, was sacked by the company’s management last week, and then temporarily re-instated following militant action by the Linamar workforce. This update comes from The Commune:

Disgracefully, however, Rob yesterday had his sacking confirmed. Negotiations between Linamar management and [Unite joint general secretary] Tony Woodley took place all day in London, but Linamar did not shift.

Meanwhile at the Swansea plant Linamar revealed their brutality. Massive intimidation of the workforce took place – including foremen going around the shop floor threatening workers with the sack if they dared walk out in support of Rob. The bosses even went to the ludicrous lengths of removing the door from Rob’s trade union office.

This brutal action by Linamar is an attempt to return to the nineteenth century. What Linamar do not realise, however, is that all hell is going to break loose when workers, both in the Swansea and the wider labour movement, hear how Rob and his members have been treated.

The official reason for his sacking was “irretrievable breakdown of trust” – one of the most blatant excuses to behead a trade union organisation ever used in any factory. Rob’s record in standing up for his members, both inside and outside the factory, is second to none. However, what is at stake here is not the fate of one individual but the right for workers to be represented by the best militant fighters.

This sacking has to be totally opposed. The union has promised rapid action to organise a ballot for an official strike, but the anti-trade union laws mean this could still take up to a month between the ballot and the strike action actually taking place. That time, which must be kept a short as possible, needs to be used to pull out all the stops in support of Rob. Messages of support and donations should flood in.

If Linamar are allowed to get away with this, no convenor or shop steward, either in the already weakened car industry or in the wider trade union movement is safe. Allow the employers to inflict a defeat here and no trade unionist, shop steward, let alone a convenor, will be able to put their head above the parapet without the bosses seeking to cut it off.

Workers are facing the worst economic crisis since the 1930s. Big business is doing their utmost to make sure that it is the working class that pays for the crisis. Militant, fighting trade unionism – symbolised by Rob Williams and the union organisation in Linamar – must not only be preserved but strengthened in order to prepare the working class for the capitalist offensive that is under way in Britain and worldwide.

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