The Militant (logo)  
   Vol. 67/No. 23           July 7, 2003  
Welsh auto parts
workers stand firm
CAERNARFON, Wales—“We’ve been on the picket line for two years now, so what’s another five months,” said Merion Hughes. He was speaking in response to an announcement by the industrial tribunal that it would wait until November to hear an appeal by Craig Smith, the owner of Friction Dynamics. Smith has challenged a tribunal decision that he unfairly dismissed 86 workers in the plant after they organized a strike to protest cuts in pay and working conditions.

Smith locked out the workers, who are members of the Transport and General Workers Union, after their walkout in April 2001. They have picketed the plant, which makes brakes and clutches for cars, since that time.

“He hasn’t won anything, he’s failed to break our spirit, and we have lasted far longer than he could have imagined,” said Hughes, who worked at the plant for 38 years until he was locked out.

The plant is located just outside of Caernarfon in north Wales. It is operating in part with scab labor from the nearby towns of Bangor and Bethesda. Hughes said that the scabs had spoken on Welsh Radio recently, claiming that they had taken the jobs in order to keep work in Caernarfon and bemoaning the fact that the locked-out workers had won widespread local support, including from members of Parliament. There are constant rumors about the plant being closed, added Hughes. “No one wants the place to close,” he said. “There isn’t much work round here and it’s pittance pay.”

Union branches from around the country and internationally have given money and support. “Many of the original 86 have had to find other jobs since the lockout began,” Hughes said. “Some are in their second or third job. This just shows the importance of our fight for union jobs—this is a small corner of north Wales with few well-paying jobs. There are 34 of us still picketing.”

Pat Jones, a worker with 33 years’ experience in the plant, said that local people had brought food parcels. “The local supermarket has a ‘buy one, get one free’ deal,” she said. “For many local people it’s become a ‘buy one and give one to a striker’ deal.”

The workers plan to promote their struggle at a concert at Bethesda over the weekend of June 20-22. The concert, which is expected to draw thousands of young people, will commemorate the hundredth anniversary of the Penrhyn slate quarry workers strike. It will feature top Welsh band Super Furry Animals.

The quarry workers’ strike was the longest running union battle of its time. It was provoked by the slate quarry bosses’s refusal to let union representatives collect union dues from their members at the quarries.

Representatives of the locked-out workers at Friction Dynamics hope to address the audience at the concert. “We are fighting to defend our union, it’s the same thing that quarry workers fought for one hundred years ago, against a boss who wants to keep us in 19th-century mill conditions,” said Hughes.  
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