On the Picket Line

Clark shoe workers in UK enter fifth week of strike

By Jonathan Silberman
November 15, 2021

STREET, Somerset, England — “We’re not giving up, we’re keeping on,” said Trevor Stephens at the picket line Oct. 29 at Clarks shoes distribution center here, where workers have been on strike for four weeks. Stephens is the day-shift shop steward for the Community union.

Over 100 workers are striking against wage cuts of 15% to 20%. Clarks is demanding workers sign new contracts that will take their hourly pay down from 11.16 pounds ($15.40) to 9.50 pounds. Workers who fail to accept the cuts will be deemed to have resigned — known here as “fire and rehire.” Starting next April, 9.50 pounds will be the national minimum wage.

“What a coincidence!” Stephens said. “I’ll not be able to afford my flat. My kids won’t be able to visit. So I’ll be out of a job and a place to live. Every single one of us faces similar challenges. That’s why the vote for strike action was unanimous.”

“I’ve lost count of the trade union backing” strikers have won, Stephens told the Militant by phone Nov. 1. “Last Friday, 20 to 30 steelworkers from Port Talbot in South Wales — fellow members of Community — came to the picket. We’ve had delegations from postal workers, fire brigade, train drivers, local government and other unions. Workers from a local supermarket have brought food.”

The Arts Centre in nearby Bridgewater hosted a fundraising solidarity benefit Oct. 29.

Workers are planning a demonstration in Street Nov. 13.

Send messages of support to Daniel Francois, regional organizer, Community, 10 Bath Mews, Bath Parade, Cheltenham, GL53 7HL. Tel: 01242-708090; email: dfrancois@community-tu.org.