Timex offer rejected: For British workers in 1993 the battle is to prevent employers imposing reductions in their wages and worse working conditions

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The Independent Online
UNIONS will today start trying to persuade workers in other countries to take action in support of those involved in the Timex dispute at Dundee, writes James Cusick. Yesterday employees, dismissed 18 weeks ago, unanimously rejected a final management offer which would have meant some getting their jobs back.

A short meeting in Dundee's Caird Hall was attended by most of the 343 sacked workers. Margaret Bell, who worked at Timex for 27 years until being sacked in January, said: 'This takes us further back than ever. It is a total disgrace'. Linda McCabe, with the company for four years, said: 'There was nothing there to discuss'.

The 'final' offer, reached after secret meetings over eight weeks between Jimmy Airlie, the AEEU engineering union's senior official for Scotland, and the Timex Corporation's international industrial relations chief, Mohamed Saleh, would have meant for many, in effect, a 27 per cent cut in pay and worse conditions.

Before being sacked, Timex workers had rejected a pay cut of 10 per cent.

Timex's new terms and conditions include: reduced company pension contributions; reduced period of sick pay payments; an end to canteen subsidies; an end to the company savings plan, meaning an pounds 8 a week loss for most production line workers; abolition of the yearly bonus - about a week's wages; changes to pay scales and a two-year pay freeze. Those returning would have to undergo retraining. Workers not meeting Timex's new standards would have qualified for redundancy pay. Those not wanting to return under such conditions would have been offered the minimum statutory redundancy pay. Laughter greeted Mr Airlie as he read out the offer.

In less than a hour, some who had attended the meeting were back on the factory picket line. One said: 'If anyone doubts whether we have the stomach to continue fighting, they will soon find out.' Since the dispute started the factory gates have been the scene of violent confrontations between pickets and police. Further mass demonstrations are planned for Monday.

After the meeting, Mr Airlie said that, during negotiations, the company had said it wanted 'a world class manufacturing capacity in Dundee . . . as a union, we want that, too. But you cannot have world class manufacturing with Third World wages and conditions.'

Willie Leslie, a former Timex union convener, said he was 'disgusted' at the offer, adding there were plans to involve overseas trade unions at other company plants.

Mr Airlie, criticised for putting the offer to the meeting, had insisted there could be no settlement unless all the sacked workers were given the opportunity to return. He had not recommended the deal, but after eight weeks of talks had a duty to tell members what had been offered.

(Photograph omitted)