Rolls attacks meet with resistance

ROLLS ROYCE is continuing its full frontal attack on the entire workforce. In its drive to reduce labour costs, it needs to shed staff and force down wages. Its tactics have been to impose these changes on a plant-by-plant basis, but they are of course very much co-ordinated from the centre.

Workers have resisted strongly with strikes and overtime bans at just about every workplace. Union convenors have organised a national £2 a week levy, which has helped boost the morale of strikers and been widely supported by those not in dispute.

Sid Packer, senior convenor at the company’s Bristol plant, which employs almost 2,000 workers, told me how the company was attempting to weaken the unions:

“By dividing their operations into separate businesses, they have stopped me visiting other workplaces. At our test plant four out of eight stewards were among those made redundant. Collecting the levy alone stretches us. I am sitting here with £5,000 on my desk.”

Sid recognises the need for a more united fightback, but continues:

“It’s not easy to motivate people and you have to carry the lads with you. Nowadays you can’t go on strike with no dough. I know we need better co-ordination, but it is easier said than done. You don’t always get the best of help either from the union at a national level.

“But we are seeing signs that people are beginning to be motivated. After years of our wages deteriorating, people are saying, ‘Enough is enough’.

“We won’t give in: it’s our battle, and if we lose, it won’t be for want of fighting. We’re not about to give up our gains.”

Peter Manson