Car industry workers in the Wirral have walked out of work spontaneously in protest against job cuts. The whole of the labour movement must get behind this struggle.
Hundreds of workers at the Vauxhall plant in Ellesmere Port “upped sticks and went” home after being told by their union reps that there are plans of a further 241 job losses by the new year.
This spontaneous walkout is an indication of the rage that is felt amongst the workforce. As one worker commented regarding this latest attack by management: “it sounds absolutely barbaric!”
250 jobs have already gone in 2018, following 600 staff who were made redundant in 2017. This amounts to a 60% reduction in the workforce in the past few years, according to Unite the Union.
As the size of the workforce at the site continues to decrease, many are genuinely concerned about the future of the factory. Mick Chalmers, regional coordinating officer at Unite, has said:
“Unite will not tolerate the death by a thousand cuts of Ellesmere Port and will leave no stone unturned in securing the future of the plant and its skilled workforce.”
These words must be followed up by action on the part of the union. The workers on the ground have shown the way forward, demonstrating their willingness to struggle. It is now time for the union to take this militancy and channel it into a strong fightback to defend jobs.
Cammell Lairds Shipyard Strike
The action at the Vauxhall plant is not the only industrial dispute underway on the Wirral. Today also saw the start of strike action by workers at the Cammell Lairds shipyard in Birkenhead. At 3pm, as workers’ shifts begun to end, a Unite-organised demonstration began, marking the beginning of three weeks of continuous strike action.
In October it was announced that the shipyard at Birkenhead would face job losses of just under 300 staff members. This is in spite of £620 million of revenue set to come in to Cammell Lairds off of the back of securing two new contracts. The workers and their unions suspect that this attack, rather than just being about financial stability, is part of a wider plan to casualise the workforce and make it more flexible for the needs of management.
Unite and GMB, who represent workers at the shipyard, balloted their members and both gained a massive mandate for industrial action.
On a 79.8% turnout, members of Unite voted 84% in favour of industrial action short of a strike and 75.4% in favour of strike action. The result amongst GMB members was just as emphatic.
“Cammell Laird bosses need to wake up to the resolve of the workforce to take a stand against these unnecessary job cuts and turn the tide against casualisation,” stated Ross Quinn, regional officer of Unite.
— Unite NW Politics (@UniteNWPolitics) November 23, 2018
Fighting for our future
The struggle in defence of jobs and against casualisation is one that affects us all. The strength of the entire Merseyside labour movement should be utilised in solidarity, with workers and students standing side-by-side with those facing attacks on their jobs.
The leaders of the labour movement must fight to defend these jobs. If the bosses demand job cuts, then big business must be nationalised, without compensation to the fat cats. As new technology and automation is brought in, work should be shared out, with a reduction in hours and no loss of pay.
These are the demands that Corbyn should promise under a Labour government, and which the trade unions leaders should fight to realise.
The workers at the Cammell Lairds shipyard will be on strike from 7am on Monday 26th November until 5pm on Friday 14th December. Picket lines will be organised on each day of the strike between 7am and 5pm.
Liverpool Marxist Society will be organising solidarity activities alongside these workers and we will report further as more information becomes available.