BY CELIA PUGH AND PAUL GALLOWAY
MANCHESTER, England - Paul Davies, an electrical assembly worker at Electrium in Manchester, is winning support from his workmates in a fight to get his job back. Davies, a member of the Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union (AEEU) and the Communist League, worked at Electrium, formerly Wylex, for 14 months. He was sacked April 3 without warning, in the final minutes of a working week.
The response from workmates was immediate. Three workers waited for him to leave the plant to discuss how to respond. On the first Monday after the sacking 23 workers stopped on the plant gate to discuss this further with Davies, including how to fight for reinstatement through the union.
The bosses claim that he was not sacked but that his temporary contract had run its course. Davies' workmates dispute this. To back up the demand for the unionist's reinstatement, some have helped him produce and circulate a fact sheet inside the plant. This statement points out that the company had never raised problems with Davies' work, attendance, or time keeping. The fact sheet challenges the bosses' claim that he was "let go" because his job in the plating shop had been made redundant. It explains that Davies was not offered an alternative job in assembly, where he first began his employment and where the company is taking on new hires.
"Moreover," the fact sheet argues, "when Paul was finished he was not treated as though he was being made redundant. He was not allowed to work his notice and was escorted off the premises by a security guard.... Paul Davies was sacked because of his political and trade union activity." Davies is known among many of the 500 or so workers at the plant for his view that working people throughout the world need strong, effective unions. The fact sheet explains, "He engages in civil discussion with his workmates about a programme to strengthen the labour movement: against temporary contracts which pit worker against worker; for a shorter working week which can unite employed and unemployed."
These views gain a hearing in the plant, where the bosses are introducing different conditions for temporary workers as part of an attack on the conditions of all workers. One recent innovation is a "training device" for temporary assembly workers. Individual press-button timers are issued to new workers so that supervisors can monitor and "improve" production speed.
In the week prior to his sacking, Davies was involved in organizing a public meeting in solidarity with the Irish freedom struggle hosted by the Troops Out Movement in the center of Manchester. The meeting, which attracted local press attention, was addressed by Sinn Fein councilor Geraldine Cassidy. Sinn Fein is the party leading the fight to end British rule in Ireland. This was the first meeting of its type since the Irish Republican Army bombing of the Arndale shopping center in this city in 1996.
The fact sheet notes Davies' championing of solidarity with struggles of working people, from the Liverpool dockers to the defense of socialist Cuba. "Paul is well known for his activity in campaigning to get the British troops out of Ireland. [He] has introduced a number of workmates to political papers, books, and pamphlets." The fact sheet concludes, "It's in the interests of all workers at Electrium that the company not be allowed to dismiss workers because of their political views."
In discussion with workmates, Davies explained, "Only through civil discussion involving everyone - no matter what their views - can we strengthen the unions and defend ourselves." He argues that his sacking is an attack on the rights of all workers in the factory and that all workers have an interest in defending free speech and opposing the sacking of anyone on the basis of their political, religious, or other beliefs.
Davies returned to the plant gate May 7 and ran out of the nearly 40 fact sheets he had, as workers stopped to discuss how to keep up the pressure for reinstatement. A few days later, some workmates reported on discussions inside the plant and that fact sheets were circulating around their sections. One worker raised the suggestion of a petition. Davies has written to the company requesting his reinstatement, and the AEEU union convenor inside the plant has agreed to represent him in any meeting with the company.
Paul Galloway is a member of the AEEU in Manchester.
Celia Pugh is a member of the AEEU in London.
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