Bosses at the Mayr Melnhof Packaging (MMP) plant in Deeside locked up the facility in advance of a community picket organised by workers locked out of MMP's Bootle plant and their supporters.
The picket was part of an attempt by the locked-out Bootle workers to build solidarity for their dispute by reaching out to Deeside workers.
On Sunday 1 April, Unite held a meeting to discuss its strategy for the campaign. This focuses on legal action in court and through Employment Tribunals (including claims for unfair dismissal and claims under TUPE regulations) and a “leverage” campaign targeting major MMP clients such as Kellogs, Unilever and Nestle.
These leverage campaigns aim to embarrass the companies and damage their reputations; fine, as far as they go, but useless unless the employer knows that they will be backed up by industrial action. The recent electricians' victory was successful because strike ballots had been held and the rank-and-file had shown they were prepared to take unofficial strike action. Employers can deal with negative publicity; they have a harder time dealing with industrial direct action.
The campaign to stop the closure of the Bootle plant and defend jobs can still be won, but it will take a strategy based on creative industrial action. Unite will have to mobilise members in other MMP facilities and in its clients' plants to put industrial pressure on MMP bosses.
This will mean finding creative ways to ballot workers legally, or helping them (surreptitiously, if necessary) take unofficial action.