Tuesday, 9 December 2008

South Wales - Workers take Direct Action

Desperate times call for desperate measures. Adam Johannes reports on the workers blockade in Hirwaun.

Everytime a workplace closes it is like a death in the family. The bosses of Ferrari's bakery chain have treated their workforce like scum, laying them off en-masse after letting them work for over a month without ever intending to pay their wages. To add insult to injury. workers are unable to claim benefits for that month because the State registers them as having been working for Ferrari. Many people are owed as much as £1000, and with bills and rent to pay, and food needed on tables, raw anger is turning into action.

With a fullscale jobs massacre underway across South Wales, the Wales TUC has spectacularly failed to show any fighting spirit or leadership. The level of job cuts and closures in Wales is a national scandal, yet our politicians and union bureaucrats seem to have become rent-a-platitude. The lights will be going out in South Wales shortly - unless we build a movement. In this situation it's heartening to see Ferrari workers begin to take things into their own hands.

The union bureaucrats have been as good as useless, doing nothing to build a mass movement for justice, so yesterday former employees went to one of the main stores to blockade lorries transporting goods out. They rightly claimed that the goods being transported were of equal value to the money they were owed and should be used to pay the wages owed to employers rather than increase the profits of the employers.

We now need to mobilise community fightbacks, so that any worker who takes a stand is not left to struggle alone. What the ex-Ferarri workers were trying to do was heroic, but with hundreds of people in South Wales in a similar boat, this should have been a mass blockade supported by a mass campaign that stopped the lorries, and forced the political elits to sit up and listen.

South Wales Chartists - supporters of the People Before Profit Charter are attempting to build such a network under the slogan - "An attack on one is an attack on all", the campaign hopes to co-ordinate opposition to working class people paying for the economic crisis and provide networks of support and solidarity. We have two campaign meetings this week. To get involved, email: CardiffChartists@live.co.uk

Hirwaun marks the birth of a new politics in South Wales, it is very different to the Cardiff Bay soap opera and the cosy discussions of the Welsh media set, but this anger and this despair is more real than anything they have to offer us.


When workers at a Sweetmans bakery on St Helen's Road, Swansea discovered that their shop was set to close, they decided to defy the bosses and take matters into their own hands to save the bakery, the local staff have taken over the lease. Sweetmans in Woodfield Street, Morriston has now followed suit. This is nothing like workers control, the bakery will still have a manager and be run along the same line as previous owners, and there is little possibility that 'workers buy-outs' can offer a real alternative to the jobs massacre but it it suggests that closures are not as inevitable as the bosses claim.

We now need to fight for companies that intend to cut jobs to be taken into public ownership and run by the workers in the interests of wider society. This can save hundreds of jobs. We live in a mad world, when the rich plunge us into an economic crisis, hundreds of thousands are made unemployed, thrown onto the scrapheap, and their vital skills and talents wasted, as a left wing newspaper put it:

'Just because bosses and banks can’t make enough profits from Woolworths doesn’t mean that people don’t need children’s clothes and household essentials. Car workers being laid off at Jaguar, Ford and Aston Martin have skills that could be used to create the next generation of public transport vehicles. Manufacturing workers could be retrained and factories retooled to produce the wind turbines and other green energy sources we need to tackle climate change.'

Monday, 8 December 2008

Factory Occupied to Stop Closure - Chicago shows the Way Forward

"This is the end of an era in which corporate greed is the rule. This is the start of something new." - James Thindwa, Jobs with Justice

What do you do when your boss tells you that your workplace is being shut down in 3 days time and you will get no pay? In Chicago, 250 angry workers have taken their factory hostage, preventing equipment being taken out, occupying to focus the whole attention of the nation on their just cause. At a time when government's spend billions bailing out bankers and capitalists, the workers have demanded a 'people's bailout'.

In raw anger, they chanted


This audacious and courageous stand has won local, national and international support and media attention. It points to the road that people in South Wales are gonna have to travel: Twenty years ago, Thatcher ripped the hearts out of our community replacing coal with heroin, jobs with despair. We cannot allow another jobs massacre to wipe-out our communities.

Read more here

Action gets results:

Calcast factory in Derry makes parts for Ford. They announced 90 redundancies recently, the union dragged its feet in doing anything about it, but workers decided to occupy and won a much better redundancy package.

Remember people are being laid off in South Wales with no redundancy pay. Welsh TV has shown people with tears rolling down their cheeks when they were told that they were being laid off with no redundancy pay just weeks before Christmas. And what the hell are the trade union bureaucrats and the politicians who star in the Cardiff Bay soap opera doing about it? We have to say to Ieuan Wyn Jones and Rhodri Morgan: Your platitudes won't feed my family!

Meanwhile in Cheshire, electricians at Fiddler’s Ferry power station heard that 60 people were being laid off by their agency BMSL. They staged wildcat strike action.

A newspaper report:

"'When they announced that they were sacking us, the contractors and the subcontractors blamed each other. But we weren’t having it. Nobody from any other trade crossed the picket so they had no choice but to get everyone back on site.' The electricians were reinstated. Some 45 were taken on by another subcontractor, the rest staying with BMSL"

Action meant that 60 people facing spending christmas on the dole still have their jobs.

You can watch footage of our brothers and sisters in Chicago here and here

Right on!

Wednesday, 3 December 2008


The New Chartists in South Wales (supporters of the People Before Profit Charter) have put together two meetings to organise community fightbacks against the job massacres. Many shopstewards, union reps, the convenor of UNITE at Hoover, the Vice-Chair of PCS Wales (in personal capacities) will be coming along, but it important that we mobilise the entire community behind the struggle to save South Wales from being once again laid waste by capital red in tooth and claw.

Wednesday 10 December, 7.30
Glebeland Club (above Belle Vue Pub)
Glebeland Street
Merthyr Tydfil

Thursday 11 December, 7.30 pm
The STAR Centre
Splott Road

We have been busy as hell visiting factories & workplaces in South Wales facing closure, we hope we can link up different working class communities under attack. In Merthyr town centre last weekend, hundreds of people signed petitions, some signing for every member of their family & Merthyr Tydfil FC Supporters Group requesting petitions to take away. A Facebook group gained over 2,000 members in 3 days.

Over 4,000 jobs have been lost or put under threat in the last 4 weeks. From Budelpack in Maesteg to Bosch in Llantrisant to the thousands of uncertain positions in Woolworths, the avalanche of job losses threatens to grow as the recession gets worse.

Without a fightback, not only will these jobs go but it will be easier for the bosses to come back and sack more. Millions of jobs around the country will be under threat. It's imprtant that when they say "cutback," we say "fightback!"

We've also been around the affected factories trying to arrange delegations. If you know people affected by the job cuts, please get in touch ASAP. Please do your best to come along and let as many people know as possible.