Friday, 13 August 2010

The Pride of Wales Get Nothing

The 86 former Friction Dynamics workers have finally given up any chance of compensation, after being wrongfully dismissed in the longest and one of the most bitter industrial disputes in the history of the Welsh trade union movement.

They were sacked at the Caernarfon factory in 2001 by the owner Craig Smith and despite winning a wrongful dismissal case in 2003, they have never received a penny of compensation from Smith-who now runs a firm back in his native USA. The TGWU members manned a picket line for an incredible 2 1/2 years and have used all avenues through their union (now UNITE) to take Smith to task, but to no avail.

The vindictive law that allowed their dismissal was based on the fact that a lawful industrial dispute was lawful after 7 weeks, but not after eight weeks. It was a grossly unfair law that New Labour did little to change other than extend it and Smith through his lawyers managed to dance around the current employment law to ensure that he avoided compensation payments, even when he lost the court case proving wrongful dismissal. Labour had 13 years to sort out some of the more odious anti-trade union/employee legislation that had built up over the decades; law that still leaves a far from level playing field for workers - but they did next to nothing.

Now, with a Tory/Lib Dem Government looking to tighten further the already tough legislation, how sickeningly hypocritical it is for the recently deposed Labour Ministers to claim a new zeal for workers rights.

Of course, the real losers here have been the 86 former TGWU members; workers who I was proud to support and march with during the dispute, along with all the local Plaid politicians who did all they could in the face of New Labour's disinterest in the proceedings. How ironic it is that UNITE, the very union that fought so hard for these members who were discarded by New Labour, are now Labour's biggest funder.

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