Timex pulls the plug on Dundee plant
On Friday, 25 redundancies had reduced the number of employees to just 70 in a company which employed 5,000 in Dundee in the 1970s. The company will retain about two dozen administrative staff to wind up its affairs. Sub-contracting work has been transferred to other manufacturers, and equipment sold to businesses throughout Europe. Trade union leaders last night were quick to reiterate their belief that the company had implemented a hidden agenda reaching back to the mid-eighties when a discontented Fred Olsen, the reclusive Timex boss, made no secret of the fact he thought the plant should have closed in 1986. They are adamant that the proposed lay-offs announced in December last year, the wages and benefits cuts offered to workers in January, were part and parcel of a scheme to force the engineering union into confrontation with closure of
the factory at the top of the agenda. The company had made no secret of the fact during the last few years that it was becoming increasingly difficult to compete with the low wages and non-union labour of the Far East in the fight for a slice of the sub contract electronics market.
The district secretary of the Engineers Union, John Kydd, senior, said: "We were among the top four in the semi-skilled league in Dundee and the company were finding it hard to compete. They were looking for a slave labour camp, a sweat shop, and we accom-modated them with agreements which were horrific." The concessions ceased on 17 February this year when, after a two-week strike in protest against the proposed 110 lay-offs, 343 hourly paid workers were sacked. The workers claimed they had offered to go back under protest and said they had been locked out. It was the start of a bitter campaign during which another 300 workers were brought in to replace the sacked workforce and which sparked the ugliest picket line scenes since the miners' strike a decade ago. At one stage in the spring, 5,000 demonstrators marched past the factory gates and a month later supporters and demonstrators grappled with police and scores of arrests were made. Mr Kydd said: "I have no regrets regarding the Timex closure," - an echo of the call made by his son John, junior, a sacked shop steward's convener at an early mass rally when he said the union would rather see the company close than operate with scab labour. Mr Kydd said that the union boycott campaign of Timex goods would continue but there would now be the question of more than 300 industrial tribunals as the workers take their sackings to law. Last week, the union tried to freeze the Timex Corporation's assets but the law lords ordered the company to lodge only 40,000, commenting that to do otherwise would be a draconian step.
The union reckoned it would need more than 3 million in a safe haven if the workers were to protect any compensation due to them and they said they feared the company could flee the country leaving the sacked workers with no redress. Campbell Christie, general secretary of the Scottish TUC, said last night: "We regret the loss of another manufacturing facility in Scotland. It clearly has come about as a result of a very serious misjudgement by the Timex management. "They assumed that they could sack their workforce - the workers were not on strike, they were in fact sacked - and they assumed they could do that with impunity.
Obviously the local management misjudged the situation and as a result we have this closure. "I believe that the lesson to be learned from this is that good industrial relations require management to deal properly with their workforces."