workers occupation

Crisis management, dirty tactics

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The idea that you can't take on multinational capitalism and win has been given a boost by the outcome at Grangemouth.

We'll never know for sure whether the threat to close the petrochemical plant was real or not. But Grangemouth's local boss, Calum MacLean, gave us an insight into owners Ineos's game plan when he claimed that if Unite "had taken the position they took in the last two days [to accept the 'survival plan'] a week ago we might never have come to this".

After Grangemouth

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The threatened closure of the petrochemical plant at Grangemouth and the aftermath of the dispute have opened up a crucial debate inside the labour movement.

Is it no longer possible, even for a union as strong as Unite with 1.4 million members, to take on big capital and win in the face of neoliberalism? Are multinational companies like Ineos now just too powerful? Do the anti-union laws tie the hands of the unions and make resisting the threat of cuts and closures impossible?

Barcelona's hospital occupations

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Health workers in Barcelona have occupied their hospital in protest against cuts.
Jonathan Collier reports

Health workers at the Sant Pau Hospital in Barcelona have been in occupation since 28 November.

The action at Sant Pau has been the catalyst for developing anti-cuts movements, involving neighbourhood and other activist groups, at hospitals throughout Catalunya. Occupations have sprung up at the region's biggest hospital, Vall d'Hebrón, and the Clínic Hospital.

A new period of class struggle

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Unofficial strikes, occupations and rank and file action - we need to learn from the new struggles by trade unionists and non-unionised workers alike, argues Charlie Kimber.

The occupation at the Vestas wind turbine plant, the support it has generated, and the global publicity it gained confirm that we are in a new period of class struggle. The initial effect of soaring unemployment was to panic most union leaders into abject surrender and to make many workers doubt their ability to fight.

How we found the confidence to organise and take over our factory

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When a group of ununionised Vestas workers occupied their factory this summer they had to learn fast. Vestas worker Ian Terry writes about the lessons of the struggle.

I gave myself a mission to get an environmentally friendly job, something that didn't stress me out and I could take something positive away from. I got to Vestas and realised that everyone was bullied by management. Health and safety was not up to scratch. They claimed at the start that there was no expense spared, but air extraction wasn't good enough and people were getting resin on their skin. When I first started we didn't have a finishing time - it was work until the job's done. They'd just have you working more. They'd move the goal posts, make you clean the floors and so on.

Green cuts

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The irrationality of capitalism was starkly exposed in April when, despite massively increasing its profits for the first three months of the year, the manufacturing company Vestas announced that it was to shed 1,900 jobs.

Of these, 450 were to go at its plant on the Isle of Wight.

Such a news item would perhaps not excite much comment in these difficult economic times - except that Vestas is the world's largest manufacturer of wind turbines. Given the urgent need to deal with climate change the announcement caused disbelief and anger throughout the environmental movement.

Occupations that send a powerful message

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Three decades of the neoliberal project have wrought significant changes to British society, all with New Labour's unabashed aim of making Britain "the most business friendly environment in Europe".

The measures taken to make Britain a playground for the rich have left the country exposed to the forces unleashed by the global economic crisis. We are faced with the deepest recession in living memory with a package of cuts to match.

Visteon: A life-changing struggle

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The occupation at former Ford plant Visteon wasn't planned. We came down here to get our personal belongings after we heard that we had all been sacked with immediate effect.

But one of the doors was open so everybody just ran in and decided to stay.

We barricaded all the doors so security couldn't get to us. Straight away we were getting donations of food brought to us. Kurds, Italians, Jamaicans, Turkish people - every nationality that lives in the country was cooking for us. It was quite emotional. All these people who didn't know us came along to give us their support, to feed us, to bring supplies of sleeping bags, toiletries. I've never seen that in my life - so many people came to strangers and put their hand out.

Crystal clear intentions

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We're in occupation to stop our factory from being shut down. The glass industry in Waterford is making a profit but not enough to satisfy corporate greed.

Waterford Crystal management had ambitions to expand and borrowed money to buy companies, using Waterford and Wedgwood to fund their debts. As the debts got larger they were harder to repay. When the Bank of America called in their loans we went into the receiver's hands and became victims of venture capitalists, KPS Capital Partners.

Factory Occupation at Invepal

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'In this factory there are no bosses. We believe that we should all be leaders.'

Invepal is a paper factory about 100 miles outside Caracas. Workers there have taken over the factory and forced the state to finance its day to day development. It is currently in co-management, whereby the workers own 49 percent of the company and the state 51 percent. Not content with this, the workers have declared that they want to reach 100 percent worker ownership. I spoke to two Invepal workers - Alexis Pereira, who is an electrician, and Alexis Polanco, who works in the chemical sector of the factory:

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