Occupy BMW Cowley – reinstate the sacked 850 agency workers


IN August 2005 800 Gate Gourmet workers were sacked by megaphone in the car park of the Heathrow company.

The TGWU, led by Tony Woodley, verbally denounced the employer but refused to make the workers’ resistance to the mass sackings official and refused to call any action.

In a few weeks it agreed to everything that the rapacious Texas Pacific Group wanted.

At the time, the Gate Gourmet sacked workers warned the whole of the working class that if Woodley and co. were not removed from the leadership of the union, instant sackings would become the rule, and the whole of the working class would get the same treatment.

Now, yesterday, 850 agency workers at BMW Oxford, one third of the workforce were sacked with just one hour’s notice. They condemned the management of BMW and they also condemned the leaders of the Unite trade union for not defending their jobs.

Once again Tony Woodley, now the co-leader of the Unite trade union, huffed and puffed that the ‘manner in which these cuts were announced today was disgraceful’ and that ‘Sacking an entire shift like this, and targeting agency workers who have no rights to redundancy pay, is blatant opportunism on BMW’s part and nothing short of scandalous.’ 

He concluded ‘We will be seeking to meet with the company as soon as possible to fight back against these needless cuts. We will also be keeping up the pressure on our government to do more to protect jobs in this country.’ 

This misses the point completely. The point is that today every job must be defended, agency job or not, since these days a job makes a life or death difference to a worker and his or her family.

In fact, as the management statement said: ‘The plant’s union representatives have, of course, been involved in the discussions.’

The union leaders had been involved in the discussions about shift changes and sackings, although Unite insists that it knew nothing about the intention of the management to sack 850 with just one hour’s notice. They were in fact taken for a ride.

On Sunday the press quoted the company as saying that ‘reports about 850 workers being laid off at its Cowley factory had been made “speculatively”’. Having done its best to disguise its intentions, the company struck the next day, sacking 850, with the agency informing workers that if their uniforms were not returned by Wednesday, £25 would be taken out of their wages!

This is a class war. The response to the mass sackings should have been the immediate occupation of the factory and an instruction to the entire Unite union to take strike action.

Now all the bosses are watching to see if BMW will get away with their coup. If they do, this Gate Gourmet style of industrial relations will be used in every manufacturing plant in the country.

Unite members must demand that their union acts at once and organises the occupation of the Cowley plant and demands the immediate reinstatement of the 850 workers.

Unite must declare that it will not accept a single sacking in the motor car industry and call for the entire industry to be nationalised under workers’ control.

If the Brown government can bring in state control of banks to defend the interests of the bosses, trade unions must demand the nationalisation of the motor car industry to defend the interests of the working class.

The Brown government is not ‘our’ government, it is the government of the bosses and bankers.

The trade unions must bring it down and replace it with a workers government that will bring in a planned socialist economy under which there will be jobs for all.

Trade union leaders who are not willing to fight for this must be sacked and replaced by leaders who will.