again on ‘revive flying pickets and spread the actions’

Chris Kane replies to Gregor Gall’s critique of his article in issue 5 of The Commune.

Gregor’s response to my article is a welcome contribution to the debate on how we respond to the recession on the industrial front. I feel however Gregor misses an old point Marx made when developing his own philosophy of revolution – that the ‘philosophers have interpreted the world, in various ways. The point however is to change it’. In that sense my article was not only an assessment of the current situation but an argument of what should be done to change it. Continue reading “again on ‘revive flying pickets and spread the actions’”

still the same old story: two swallows don’t make a summer

Gregor Gall replies to Chris Kane’s piece in issue 5 of The Commune

It’s not uncommon on the left for commentators to herald that a clutch of instances form an observable trend. Desperation, frustration, desire and hope can be dangerous things.

Writing on the Guardian’s website CommentisFree on 26 May 2009, Seumas Milne penned a piece called ‘Return of the strike’ ). Putting two and two together, it’s not hard to argue that he got five despite his caveat on France. The tone of his piece was that ‘something significant is going on’. His evidence (concerning strikes) was the two engineering construction workers’ strike (in Janunary/February and May 2009) and the Visteon occupations (at Belfast and Enfield).

And from the Commune website, Chris Kane in a piece called ‘Revive flying pickets and spread the actions’  of 24 May 2009, and using exactly the same examples argued:

“We have seen the revival of unofficial strikes during the Lindsey oil refinery dispute… We have also seen a whole string of workplace occupations, the most recent being at the Ford Visteon plants in Belfast and London.” Continue reading “still the same old story: two swallows don’t make a summer”

lessons of the oil refinery wildcat strikes

by Professor Gregor Gall, University of Hertfordshire


The engineering construction workers’ strike has been the most significant instance of workers’ resistance to the recession and its effects so far. Its significance is not just to be found in that it was a strike taking place in a recession – when conventional wisdom suggest workers do not strike because of their weakened labour market position. Rather, its significance is to also be found in the militant and successful collective action which took place and the dynamics of this which were driven primarily by the grassroots. It threw up critical issues of workers’ collective leverage, how labour markets operate, xenophobia, neo-liberalism and state regulation of labour.

Origins and Background

Redundancy notices were issued in late 2008 at Lindsey oil refinery for Shaws’ workforce after Shaws lost part of a Total contract at the site. Just before Christmas holiday, Shaws’ shop stewards were informed this work had been contracted to IREM, an Italian non-union company. Stewards explained to members that IREM would employ its own core (non-union) Portuguese and Italian workforce so the redundant workers would not be re-employed on the contract. This precipitated meetings with IREM to press the case for re-employment. Stewards were also told that IREM would pay the national rate for the job but this was met with suspicion.   Continue reading “lessons of the oil refinery wildcat strikes”