Timex strike, 1993 - European Counter Network

1993 strike at an electronics factory in Dundee against layoffs and a wage-freeze.

Submitted by Spassmaschine on August 13, 2009

Support is growing for the strike at the Timex electronics plant in Dundee, Scotland. On Monday 22 March, 16 people were arrested on a mass picket of 400 people outside the plant. Pickets blocked the road outside the factory, preventing scab workers entering for two hours. Two days before (on 20/3/93) 6,000 people took part in a demonstration in the city in support of the Timex strikers.

On March 29 there was another mass picket of Timex, despite police intimidation. A coach bringing strike supporters from Glasgow was stopped twice by the police, ensuring that it arrived 90 minutes late.

The dispute started on January 29th when 340 workers (most of them women) went on strike after management tried to impose a pay freeze, 110 lay-offs, and worse working conditions. On 17th February, the Timex Corporation (a giant US multinational) sacked the entire shopfloor workforce at the plant, including 17 workers who had crossed picket lines and refused to join the strike!

Management have employed scab workers to replace the sacked strikers although they haven't yet recruited enough to resume normal working. Every morning and afternoon, around 200 strikers have been picketing the plant as the scabs go in and out in buses. On 4 March, pickets used four hired vans to block the entrance to the factory. Management had to have a hole cut in the perimeter fence so that scabs could get into work. Police arrested four people. On another occasion, scab buses were delayed for an hour after glue was squeezed into the locks of the factory gates. A local taxi firm that was taking scabs across the picket line stopped its activities when strikers callled for it to be boycotted.

Timex have used the courts to try and undermine the strike. A court ruling has banned strikers from going near the scab pick up point in the city. Court action has also been taken against four officials of the AEEU engineering union, which the strikers belong to. However on 19 March, Timex failed in an attempt to get the courts to ban strikers meeting within 50 yards of the factory. The police have co-operated with the management, videoing and generally harassing pickets. Two strikers arrested on the picket line have been charged with assaulting a scab elsewhere in the city.

Timex is being advised in its actions by Scottish Engineering, part of the Engineering Employers Federation. This shows how seriously engineering bosses are taking this dispute, leading workers in other Scottish factories to fear that if Timex defeat their workers, other employers will launch similar attacks on pay and working conditions. A few weeks before the start of the strike, AEEU union leaders agreed to a wage freeze, limited period contracts for new workers, "flexible" working practices, and video cameras on the shop floor at Hoover's Cambuslang plant near Glasgow. In return Hoover bosses announced that they would close their factory at Dijon in France and transfer jobs and production to Cambuslang. When Timex workers began their strike they stuck a banner, "No Cambuslangs here" on the factory gate.

Leaders of the AEEU are trying to prevent effective picketing of Timex. After the successful picket on March 22, AEEU leader Gavin Laird wrote to all strikers telling them that their actions "must be wholly within the civil and criminal law". He warned: "Some union members persist in disobeying the unequivocal instructions already given. Failure to obey the instructions of the executive council will render you liable to expulsion from the union. The consequences of such an expulsion are that strike benefit will be withdrawn [and] you may as a matter of law lose whatever right you have to complain of unfair dismissal". Union leaders have also said that "We will not welcome anyone coming to Timex who does not accept the discipline of the AEEU. Anyone not prepared to do so should stay away". Not surprisingly, such statements have been welcomed by Timex management.

Timex workers have a history of militancy. Ten years ago workers occupied the same factory for six weeks in a fight for jobs. Send donations, messages of support to: Timex Strike Committee, c/o AEEU Office, 2 Union Street, Dundee (tel. 0382 22406)

The Timex Corporation have offices at 97 Uxbridge Road, London W5 5TL (081 567 7733).

European Counter Network, April 1993. Taken from the Practical History website.