On the Picket Line

Shipyard workers in Liverpool organize ‘rolling’ strike actions

By Pete Clifford
December 24, 2018

LIVERPOOL, England — Shipyard workers, members of the Unite and GMB unions, walked out of the Cammell Laird shipyard here Nov. 23 and began “rolling” strike actions. On Dec. 7 they decided to suspend the strikes for four weeks to conduct a new round of talks with the bosses. The workers are protesting the shipyard bosses’ announcement of plans to cut 291 jobs, about 40 percent of the workforce. Different sections of the yard, up to 100 workers at a time, walked out.

Picketing laborers and riggers told the Militant Nov. 28 that the strike was having an impact. The bosses told BBC they had already lost £1.5 million ($1.9 million) because of the action.

“This is about moves to kill the union,” said GMB union organizer Albie McGuigan. The company ordered the layoffs even though it had signed contracts to build and maintain ships for the Royal Navy worth £619 million.

As workers who weren’t part of the strike left work, they sounded their horns and flashed thumbs up as they passed the picket line.

Union officials say the bosses’ goal is to replace those let go with agency workers. “Since the last round of job cuts over two years ago,” Unite regional officer Ross Quinn told the press, “We have seen more and more agency workers on ‘flexible’ contracts.”

These workers — most of whom are originally from Romania and Poland — are paid £9 an hour, as opposed to the £14 paid to full-time company workers.

Big-business papers like the Sun, published in London, wrote about this in a way aimed at stoking divisions between the two groups of workers. The union officials haven’t proposed any steps to organize or fight for the same wages and conditions for the agency workers.

A few miles away at the Vauxhall Ellesmere Port car plant, 1,100 workers held a wildcat strike Nov. 23 after hearing that bosses plan to cut 241 jobs. There already were three earlier rounds of job cuts at the plant.