Subversion look at the Timex workers' illusions in their trade union, regular mass pickets and the need for solidarity strikes in their dispute in summer 1993.
The courageous resistance of 343 Timex strikers in Dundee to massive cuts in their wages and conditions and the subsequent threat to close the factory has been well documented else where.
They, along with other smaller groups of workers such as those at “Burnsalls” and “Middlebrook Mushrooms” have demonstrated a long overdue militant determination to stand up against the bosses ever increasing demands for cuts in our standard of living and the preservation of their profits.
But courage and militancy on their own aren’t enough to win this kind of dispute in the current world economic crisis. If they were, then much stronger groups such as the printers, seafarers and miners would not be in the disarray they are today.
Although Timex strikers rejected the attempts of national union ‘leaders’ to negotiate shabby deals with their bosses, they were content, initially, to leave the wider struggle, away from the workplace and the locality, to what they felt was ‘their’ union.
The support for regular mass pickets from workers in Dundee and elsewhere in Scotland and England was indeed impressive and achieved some notable, if passing, victories. But those of us with longer memories couldn’t help but listen to the echoes of previous failed disputes, like Grunwicks in London, which relied heavily on picketing as a solution. The calls for “consumers” to boycott Timex products, however valid, also has worrying echoes in the Seamen’s Unions efforts to derail the Channel Ferry strikes.
Timex workers recognised the need for ‘solidarity’, as other workers recognised the important knock on effect of a victory for the Timex workers on their own disputes. Support in the form of union resolutions, donations, demonstrations and attendance at pickets has been forthcoming.
What has been missing is the active solidarity involved in spreading the strike, not only to other workers in the multi-national of which Timex is just part, but across both industrial and geographical boundaries. The development of common actions, with common demands, directly under the control of those involved.
This isn’t just the responsibility of Timex workers but something which we all need to take on board.
In the current situation ‘isolation’ means defeat and leaving things in the hands of the union, much less the political parties of all hues means isolation.
Timex workers have begun to organise themselves to seek active solidarity from others both in the multinational and locally. This may prove to be too little, too late, but the fight certainly isn’t over yet.
Whatever the outcome we should take heart from the determination and courage of our class brothers and sisters at Timex and learn both from the positive and negative lessons of this strike in the struggles to come.
Subversion, No. 13 (Summer 1993)