Sunday, 19 February 2012

Bootle sees Britain's first lock out in 54 years

Union news reports that workers at Mayr-Meinhoff Packaging have become the first workers in Britain to be locked out by bosses since 1958. This follows three 24 hour strikes in nine days, over plans to make workers redundant. In response, the workers occupied the factory, and informed management that nothing would go in or out until the lock-out ended.

The occupation has currently been suspended pending talks, but there will be a demonstration at the factory tomorrow at 10am. I would strongly urge everybody who can make it to get down to this and show their solidarity with the affected workers.

If you can't make it down, you can always phone MMP on 0151 523 2222 or fax 0151 522 2747 to let them know that you support the workers and demand they end the lock-out.

lock-out is, essentially, the reverse of a strike. It is where an employer denies staff work and pay unless they submit to certain conditions. It is used quite frequently in industrial disputes across the world, though hasn't been in Britain for over half a century. If it starts being used by British bosses now, it will reflect the idea that the anti-strike laws are no longer enough to contain worker militancy.

This threat needs to be beaten down as fast as possible. With more cost-cutting and layoffs no doubt planned by companies in response to the economic climate, and an increase in industrial conflict over the cuts, privatisation and other issues, the use of the lock-out as a tactic sets a worrying precedent. It shows that, whilst this climate is sparking a renewed militancy in workers, it has the potential to do the same in the bosses. And it's easier for them to get away with.

That it was met with an occupation in Bootle is an extremely good sign, and a strong solidarity demonstration will only hammer home that message. But if the bosses continue to use this tactic, workers must continue to respond with such unofficial action - and perhaps even measures like lock-ins or "bossnapping". The message must always be that they will not get away with it!

Solidarity demonstration with locked-out MMP workers
MMP Packaging, Dunnings Bridge Road, Bootle, 10am Monday 20 February