Precision Castparts Corp, the American owners of SPS Technologies in Leicester, is one of many companies trying to bully their employees by attempting to sack them all and reemploy them on new contracts that would result in reductions to overtime pay, sick pay, paid breaks and shift premiums. This is the pandemic nightmare currently being enacted upon the working-class by capitalists all over the world who are trying to use despicable “fire and rehire” practices to drive up their profits at the expense of their employees’ lives.
The vast majority of the “key workers” at the Barkby Road SPS site in Leicester are members of Unite, and their quick and correct response to their bosses was to attempt to persuade them to see sense through tried and tested methods of negotiation. Their boss however appears to be either ignorant or plain stupid (or perhaps both) and evidently decided that the best way to advance his own career and to please his billionaire bosses at Precision Castparts Corp would be to treat his workers as disposable commodities.
Today now marks the fourth day of local strike action taken against SPS, and with no meaningful settlement yet in sight the workers are fully capable and willing to show their managers who the real boss is when it comes to getting work done. This means from Monday morning more than 200 Unite members will be taking a full two months of strike action – a serious escalation which will effectively bring their factory’s operations to a halt.
On the picket line this morning workers made it clear beyond any doubt that they plan to continue their industrial action to the end if necessary. The general mood on the otherwise energising pickets was that their Managing Director, Jitesh Randeria, was, to put it very politely, the major problem at their factory, and workers looked forward to the day when they have a sensible boss who cared about their work and their company as much as them.
Unite regional officer Lakhy Mahal echoed many of the workers’ ongoing frustrations with Mr. Randeria noting that he “has treated his workforce disgracefully” by actively making the choice to “punch down on loyal workers who will be forced into taking payday loans or second jobs by these cuts?” The Unite officer went on to add: “Mr Randeria will have to explain to his higher ups in Berkshire Hathaway why the conglomerate’s name, as well as Warren Buffett’s, is now being linked to unseemly attempts at using the pandemic as a cover to launch attacks on workers’ pay.”
What this strike has shown to the Barkby Road workers, and increasingly so to the world, is that Mr. Randeria is way out of his depth when it comes to management, and he is certainly the wrong person to remain at the helm of SPS going forward.
Working with Mr. Randeria would test anyone’s patience. Rather than simply talk with the striking union and their democratically elected representative Mr. Randeria initially tried to take legal action against the union saying the strike was illegal, and when that bluff failed he started spreading rumors’ in the workplace that the flag-waving pickets were bullying other workers – a total inversion of events. This of course all coming from the same boss who thinks it also appropriate to bully individual workers on the picket line itself: but who can’t summon the same energy to engage in conversation with their union rep.
Mr. Randeria’s managerial incompetence has it seems backfired and has only strengthened the resolve of the striking workers who are now more determined than ever to continue their fight for justice.
These key workers at SPS Technologies have soldiered on by working every day throughout this pandemic – even while having to endure a soul-sapping redundancy process — are now fully united and focused on maintaining their strike. This strike is teaching an important lesson to all workers in the city and further afield: if bosses attack with “fire and rehire” the immediate response must be to “ballot and strike” and to then to work alongside other workers and unions to scrap all #FireAndRehire abuses for good.
Later in the morning the pickets were visited by Unite Assistant General Secretary Howard Beckett and Local MP Claudia Webbe.