N Ireland: Dessian factory strike

Workers at the Dessian factory in Belfast have gone on strike over the sacking of a shop steward. Dessian, which is a locally owned company making PVC windows, employs over 100 at it’s Belfast plant and another 40 at a Glasgow subsidiary.

Sacked shop steward, Patrick McCuskey, told the Socialist Party, “I was suspended in April, and then sacked, on the pretext that I had refused to do work allocated to me. In fact, I had been doing three jobs at the time. The real reason was because I was a T&GWU shop steward. We had just started our pay negotiations and they wanted rid of me so as to weaken the union.

“Two years ago they did the same thing, sacking another shop steward. That time they got away with it but our members have had enough and this time we won a ballot for strike action – with only one vote against.”

Other strikers commented: “This has been coming a long time. The sacking is only one issue. Dessian pays just above the minimum wage. Conditions are terrible and management act like dictators. We should have done this long ago.”

The strike is solid with almost all the production workers out and taking part in the picketing. Managers and some shop floor staff have tried to keep up production, but after a few days all they had produced was a heap of scrap that had to be dumped out the back of the factory.

There was an attempt at negotiations after the strike started but this broke down when the management refused to budge their position. At the start of this week they issued a statement saying that due to loss of orders they would be making 70 workers redundant. Stephen Magee, also a T&GWU shop steward, responded to this move by saying: “They’re trying to break the union. But our members are solid and we are determined to win this dispute.”

Members of the Socialist Party, who have been visiting the picket line since the first day of the dispute, have been well received by the strikers.

Messages of support should be sent to: Stephen Magee, 31 Ava Crescent, Belfast BT7 3DU.

The T&GWU have set up a hardship fund and cheques should be made out to “Dessian fund”.

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May 2004