ANGRY Rover workers yesterday slammed their betrayal by trade union leaders, Transport and General Workers Union General Secretary Tony Woodley, and Amicus General Secretary Derek Simpson.
They warmly welcomed Birmingham Northfield WRP candidate Frank Sweeney’s demand to occupy the Longbridge plant and to nationalise MG Rover, as he and his team campaigned outside the car factory.
Billy, a former TGWU shop steward, 15-years at Rover said: ‘If Tony Woodley wanted he could have kept our jobs. He can’t say he didn’t know about it, he’s the general secretary. We were expecting help from the national leaders.I don’t know how we’re going to pay the bills and mortgage. I’ve got four kids.’
Derek from Northfield added: ‘We couldn’t have our pension because it was short. There’s a chap that worked 31-years or more who refused to work for BMW. He was offered £190 per-week pension, £40,000 redundancy and £26,000 lump sum pension. He didn’t take it. He was expecting the trade union leaders to fight. He walked out with £60 a week.Woodley sold us down the river. We bent over backwards doing all long hours. We have to get rid of the trade union leaders that don’t fight.’
Sean, a young Rover apprentice, added: ‘I’m gutted, really gobsmacked. You give 100 per cent and end up with this scenario. I think management must be separating the company. Trade unions should put up much more of a fight. We should have different leaders, stronger leaders, and not leaders that shake hands with the bosses.’
Candidate Frank Sweeney said: ‘The anger of Rover workers is growing on a daily basis. Workers who got their cars on the company finance deal have been told they must be returned by Saturday. The jobs being offered to some of the workers are at a quarter of the wages they were receiving at Rover. Our demand to occupy the plant and to demand its nationalisation is being seriously discussed by these workers.
‘We have also received tremendous support in our campaign from youth in the Northfield area. A regime of 9.00pm curfews and dispersal orders has made life hell for thousands of working class youth. They are constantly intimidated and harassed by the police and told to go home. Lots of youth have joined the Young Socialists and are coming to London on Sunday for our May Day demonstration.’
WRP candidate for Norwich South, Roger Blackwell, joined more than 40 lecturers protesting outside Norwich City College yesterday lunchtime.
Andy Cairns, NATFHE branch assistant secretary explained: ‘We should have had a nationally agreed pay deal implemented last August, but they have still not implemented it. We have given them a breathing space after three days of strikes in March. The strikes were called off nationally because of the election. If we have not got an acceptable deal in two weeks, then we will be considering striking again. Personally, I think it needs to be an indefinite strike.’
Several students signed up to join the Young Socialists. Among them were 16 years old Daisy Brooke and her friend, 17 years old Kitty Watts. Daisy said: ‘I think Tony Blair is an idiot.’ Kitty added: ‘I’m annoyed about Blair supporting Bush in the war on Iraq. Most people around here are against that.’
In west London, former Hillingdon hospital striker Maya Chopra was campaigning with former strike leader, WRP candidate for Southall, Malkiat Bilku.
Maya said: ‘It’s getting harder for pensioners, the young with tuition fees and workers in general. We stood for five years on the picket line at Hillingdon Hospital with Malkiat and all 53 strikers are proud that she is standing for election. She is a great fighter and the best candidate. Privatisation is so bad. It has led to MRSA and the fight against privatisation continues. Please everyone vote for Malkiat.’
Malkiat Bilku said: ‘I am proud that the ladies who stood with me on the picket line are still standing with me in the election – 120 per cent. The working class is fed up with politicians and is looking for something different. The Workers Revolutionary Party candidates are not the same as others. They stand on principle, for the working class to take over society and go forward to socialism.’