“How much more do they want from us? We will end up working for nothing.” This is the feeling amongst shopfloor works at Superform Aluminium in Worcester. Andy Fenwick of Socialist Appeal talked to workers who are not prepared to take any more cuts.
We were not part of any union and we have accepted poor pay and had to work long hours to try to have a decent standard of living. We have hardly had a pay rise in the last five years. We have accepted redundancies, but that wasn’t good enough for the Managing Director (MD). He wanted more. He wanted not only to cut our pay by 5% but wanted to introduce Bank Hours which would remove shift premiums and overtime payments. If the MD gets his way and these proposals are implemented, in reality pay will be cut by more than 20%. It is not as if we receive a huge pay packet. The majority of the shopfloor are on less than £8.20 an hour.
On the Tuesday 5th May we all received a letter from the MD which demanded that we all had to sign a variation to the contract of employment cutting our pay and our replies had to be returned to him by the Friday. This was the final straw. Talk amongst the lads was about what could be done. Immediately we looked at legal websites and put together letters objecting to the imposition of such a change. But we realised that this MD would not be swayed by reasoned argument. What we needed was some muscle. It was time we joined a union. Instead of signing the change to contract we held our first union meeting when an official of the UNITE union came to talk to us and in less than an hour the vast majority of the shopfloor joined
The official handed out formal grievance document that we all have signed and UNITE sent these to the company, only to be told the company would not hear the grievances. Instead the MD has tried to intimidate the workforce by making a presentation about how bad the company is doing. This story was better than Orphan Annie and nearly had us all crying. If only he was prepared to put any figures to this presentation he might have convinced us, but everything is ‘commercially sensitive’. In the presentation he showed clippings from the press of other workers who have had pay cuts. Funnily enough it doesn’t work the other way. In the past when we point out that other workers got pay rises it had nothing to do with him. The MD has stated a ‘substantial number’ of employees have signed but he won’t give a number as it is ‘commercially sensitive’. We know how many have signed and it is not substantial. It is 2 – one was intimidated and the other was an African worker who signed because the contents of the document were not fully explained to him.
We know what work the company has as we see it going out the factory gate every day so the MD cannot hoodwink us. We know he is using the recession as a smoke screen to cut our pay. The company can’t tell us a sad story and in the next breath brag about how full the order book is. If the company really is in a bad way, open the company books so we can all see.
We have all received letters. The company is wriggling to get out of the grievances hearings stating that a ‘substantial number’ have signed the variation so the company will not hear the grievances.
We know we are new to the union but what we want now is for the union to start pressurising the company to talk. We don’t just want the grievances to be heard. We want full recognition and bargaining rights. We want proper health & safety. We want to make up for all the years the management have walked all over us. If the MD gets away with this, he will be back for more cuts in the future but we will make a stand here. We want other trade unionists to come to our support. Your help will be vital in the coming months.
Send letters of support to Superform Aluminium Workers, c/o Roger Shutt, Regional Industrial Organiser UNITE T&G Section, 8 Severn Street, Worcester. WR1 2ND