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Indefinite Strike at Rolls Royce Patchwood

Edward Campbell | 23.08.2005 22:54 | Workers' Movements | World

96 Workers from Rolls Royce’s engine test facility at Patchwood in England went on idefinite official stike today. They are supporting sacked Amicus Trades Union official Jerry Hicks. This strike could mark a reversal by workers and Unions of 25 years worth of defeats under new-liberalim.

The factory's Managing Director said that he would not be re-instated. This is in spite of an unemployment tribunal provisionally finding that he has probably been dismissed “on trade union grounds“; management claimed it was it was for several other reasons including misconduct and organising unlawful industrial action.

This action marks a step change in workers reaction in Britain to repression of their trade Unions and its officials, and the workers themselves, by both conservative and New Labour governments over the last 25 years.

This strike could trigger a wider scale fight-back by Unions and workers against deteriorated employment terms and conditions, unscrupulous employers and anti-trade union governments.

Trade Unions in Britain have been prevented from taking action to support their members by increasing more repressive anti-trade union laws. No only has there been a change in mood of the workers in which enough really has become enough, but they are working in an more locally autonomous way that is a tendency towards syndicalism.

This change allows National Unions to avoid being prosecuted for supporting unofficial action when decisions are taken locally with national consultation or official support. Cross support from other "syndicates" or other local branches can help build the dispute such that a momentum of support is built that can take the dispute into the official domain at which regional and national support can come in without these bodies being prosecuted for initially supporting unofficial action.

The change in tactics are necessary because of the trade unions laws, but changes in tactics have also happened because of a growing confidence of a new younger layer of activist at the grass roots, supported by the knowledge and experiences of a previous generation of workers who suffered defeat after defeat by management, government and new anti-Trades Union laws. Some workers have decided they can take no more punishment, now they have gained the confidence and new organisational methods that have arisen out of necessity and human experience.

The outcome of this strike depends on the support the Rolls-Royce strikers can get from other trade unions and workers. It will give a measure of the solidarity and strength of rank and file trade unionists who are making a strategic move to fight back against the anti-trade union laws and the consequent erosions of their pay and conditions - over the last quarter century under neo-liberalism - which have made them some of the worst in Europe.

Edward Campbell