Workers follow French lead with sit-in protests

The sit-in protests at Thomas Cook and Vestas are further proof of the rising tension in UK workplaces...

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

The 20 staff who have been staging a sit-in at Thomas Cook’s Grafton Street branch in Dublin since Friday, in the hope of getting a better redundancy deal, were forcibly removed by police this morning – which is unlikely to mollify relations between the two sides. It’s a similar story over in the Isle of Wight, where Vestas Technology is trying to get rid of a group protesting about the firm’s redundancy plans. We’re more used to seeing this sort of behaviour in France than in the UK – but it seems that British attitudes are hardening…

Thomas Cook said on Friday that it would be closing its two Dublin stores a month ahead of schedule, supposedly ‘to minimise disruption’. Not surprisingly, this news (which will see about 77 jobs lost) went down like a lead balloon with staff, who promptly locked themselves into the building and refused to leave even after the travel agent obtained a court order on Saturday compelling them to do so. They’re haggling over the terms of the redundancy agreements – Thomas Cook says it’s offering five weeks’ pay for every year of service (as long as they start behaving themselves), but apparently staff want more. Either way, the site of them being led out of the office by police this morning isn’t the kind of image its PR department will love.

Another company having similar trouble is Denmark-based wind turbine maker Vestas. After it announced plans to close its Newport plant on the Isle of Wight, with the loss of about 625 jobs, a group of about 25 protesters barricaded themselves into a first-floor office – and they’re still there, 15 days later. Vestas – which is profitable and has apparently just been awarded a £6m Government grant – reckons there aren’t enough wind turbines put up on the mainland to justify a UK factory, but the workers aren’t buying it. Vestas won a court order itself this morning, just as another gang started a rooftop protest at one of its other IoW plants.

Clearly tensions are running high across UK plc. Companies are worried about survival, while staff are worried about joining the ever-growing dole queues with little prospect of finding alternative employment. So it’s no surprise that some are going to drastic lengths to try and stay in work. But we can’t help feeling that if it gets to the stage where employers find themselves faced by sit-in protests, it's probably an indication that they haven't handled the redundancy process very sensitively...


In today's bulletin:
Northern Rock sinks again as losses widen
Toyota and BMW caught in worldwide car crash
Workers follow French lead with sit-in protests
Editor's blog: More nonsense from Harman
Too skint to sack people?

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