On Friday 2 September, thousands of trade unionists will converge on Bristolto demonstrate in support of victimised Rolls Royce Amicus convenor Jerry Hicks.
In late July Jerry was suspended and then sacked from the Bristol Patchway Rolls Royce plant, where he is the Test Area convenor. Workers at the plant walked out on strike in protest at Jerry’s suspension, and struck again in protest at his dismissal. Amicus members in the plant’s Test Area were subsequently balloted on further strike action, and voted two to one in favour. Since 23rd August the Test Area workers have been out on indefinite strike.
Other sections of the workforce at the Patchway plant are now due to be balloted on strike action as well, with the possibility of the dispute then being spread to other Rolls Royce plants.
The “charge” against Jerry by Rolls Royce was that he had organised “unofficial” strike action in support of two fitters who were threatened with the sack in June, and that he had attempted to undermine disciplinary procedures. Rolls Royce’s real motivation in sacking Jerry is to undermine trade union organisation in the Bristol plant. Rolls Royce is building a new plant in Bristol. It has already made clear that it wants agency staff and worse pay and working conditions in the plant. To achieve that, Rolls Royce needs to attack and undermine trade union organisation.
So far, things have not been going Rolls Royce’s way.
Apart from the two bouts of “unofficial” strike action, the current “official” strike action, and the prospect of further and wider strike action, Rolls Royce lost badly at an Employment Tribunal interim relief hearing in early August. The Tribunal found that Jerry had probably been sacked because of his trade union activities, and that Rolls Royce had not followed correct procedures in sacking him.
The Tribunal also recommended that Rolls Royce re-instate Jerry. But Rolls Royce ignored the recommendation.
Workers throughout Rolls Royce have already expressed support for Jerry, who has spoken at rallies of Rolls Royce workers in East Kilbride, Hillingdon, Barnoldswick, Ansty, Sunderland, and Derby. 400 people attended a rally in Bristol a fortnight ago, addressed by Bob Crow and Tony Benn, in support of Jerry’s re-instatement. Now Amicus has also declared the dispute official. It has circulated publicity material and collection sheets, as well as balloting members in the Patchway plant on strike action and calling this Friday’s demonstration.
Rolls Royce’s sacking of Jerry is not just an attack on one individual. Nor is it even “just” an attack on trade unionism in Rolls Royce. It is an attack on the basic right of any and every trade union representative to act in support of their members, and an attack on the right of every trade unionist to choose their own union representative.
The dispute is shaping up to be major confrontation. There can be no compromise settlement of this dispute. Jerry has made it clear that he will not be bought off and has rejected a pay-off of £50,000 as a matter of principle. Rolls Royce had dug in its heels and has repeatedly said in public that they will not re-instate Jerry under any circumstances.
Not just Amicus but the whole of the trade union movement must campaign to secure Jerry’s re-instatement. If Rolls Royce can get away with sacking a long-standing convenor, then employers throughout the country will feel confident about following in their footsteps.
• Send e-mails to Amicus General Secretary Derek Simpson welcoming Amicus support for the dispute, and urging Amicus to take all steps necessary to secure Jerry’s re-instatement: email@example.com
• Raise financial support for Jerry and the Rolls Royce strikers: Send cheques payable to “AEU Stewards Body – Test Area” to: c/o Jerry Hicks, 10 York Road, Montpelier, Bristol BS6 5QE.
• Send messages of support and requests for speakers to: firstname.lastname@example.org