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.'

1 comment:

Greg Lewis said...

Dick Dastardly's Middle Eastern promise

A week after 'What Is Wales?' asked what Middle East peace envoy Tony Blair was doing about the crisis in Gaza he has apparently sprung into action.
Back from holiday he has been on the telephone to Jordan's King Abdullah II and is planning a series of meetings today.
AFP reports that King Abdullah told Mr Blair that the world's silence over Gaza has become "unacceptable".
What has the former crusading prime minister been up to then as the hungry and desperate people of Gaza await the tanks and troops of the Israeli Defence Force?
According to the Daily Telegraph one of the things which has been occupying his mind is the design of the Congressional Gold Medal which he has received from George W Bush.
Mr Blair has not yet been able to pick up the medal, awarded for being Bush's "staunch and steadfast ally" during the invasion of Iraq, and like Dick Dastardly's sidekick Muttley, he's understandably keen to see it looks just right.

:: Demonstrations and events relating to the crisis in Gaza are continuing in Wales:

* Protest march through Cardiff at 2pm on Friday January 9, assembling on the green opposite City Hall.

* Vigil at the Nye Bevan statue from 12-1, on Tuesday, January 6.

* Fundraising benefit concert on Wednesday, January 7, at 7:30pm in Dempseys, Castle Street, Cardiff: tickets £5 or donation at the door, in aid of charity Middle East Childrens Alliance.

* Fundraising dinner in aid of Islamic Relief Fund Wales, Thursday, January , 6 pm-10 pm, City Hall Cardiff; tickets £15 from 0782 4465159