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8 December 2021

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Clarks strikers defeat 'fire and rehire'

Clarks protest. Photo: Bristol SP

Clarks protest. Photo: Bristol SP   (Click to enlarge)

Tom Baldwin, South West Socialist Party

After two months on strike Clarks workers have defeated the shoe firm's plans to fire and rehire them on considerably reduced wages. The company had been trying to impose a 15% pay cut, reducing hourly pay to just £9.50, along with a whole raft of other attacks. It came up against determined resistance from members of the Community trade union who began all-out strike action in October.

Clarks has now backed down from the plans to fire workers at the Westway distribution centre in Street, Somerset, to force them to sign up to the new terms. The existing pay of £11.16 an hour has been protected, and newer staff will have their pay raised to this level, in line with their workmates.

Full details of the deal have not yet been made public and may include some concessions by workers as well as management. Nonetheless, beating fire and rehire is a victory, and staff have voted to accept the deal and end the strike.

The deal between the firm and the union was struck at Acas, the third party mediation service. However, it was only possible due to concerted struggle pushing the company back. They had only agreed to mediation after the strike had already been in place for over a month and they'd already had to improve their offer to £10.03 an hour.

Strikers had kept up well-organised pickets covering every shift for two months. Support from other trade unionists was shown through donations to the strike fund, large numbers joining the picket lines for solidarity days, and the hundreds-strong demonstration which was applauded at every turn as it marched through the village of Street.

The successful fight by this relatively small group of workers will have much wider repercussions. Other employers will have been watching the outcome and may now think again before attempting to inflict similar attacks on their workforce.

Likewise, all workers will need to learn from this example, that struggle and solidarity are vital to defending their interests.

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In The Socialist 8 December 2021:


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Government social care plans: Where is the money?

Uni staff and students must unite to end marketisation and for free education

Covid news in brief

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Universities strike - build the action and stand united to win

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Remembering Tony Davison

Fighting Fund: Help us reach over 50,000

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Mail attacks tube strikers by stealing socialist's image


Film review: The Harder They Fall


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Coventry bin workers on strike, January 2022, photo by Dave Nellist

Socialist Party members joined the picket lines of striking bin workers in Coventry fighting for better pay. January 2022

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