Mass sacking firm in talks: Timex executives visit besieged plant

TWO senior executives from Timex's world headquarters in Connecticut spent most of yesterday at the company's Dundee plant. The Scottish factory has been under a virtual siege from trade union protesters for nine weeks after the sacking of 343 staff and the bussing in of non-union 'replacement' workers.

John Dryfe, Timex's corporate vice-president, and Mohammed Saleh, the human resources vice-president, travelled to Dundee after a private meeting in London on Wednesday with the Lord Provost of Dundee, the convenor of Tayside Regional Council, and Ernie Ross, Labour MP for Dundee West. Peter Hall, Timex's Dundee boss, also attended the meeting.

Although Timex's owner, the Norwegian businessman Fred Olsen, had given the meeting - in a London hotel - his approval, he did not attend.

The reluctance of those involved in the meeting to divulge what was said or agreed, and the subsequent journey to Dundee of the two American vice-presidents - said to be to check on the ability of the alternative workforce to continue adequate production levels - has given trade union leaders some hope.

American executives are believed to have given the initial go-ahead for Mr Hall to adopt hardline tactics, in line with the company's US policy, nine weeks ago when the mass sackings took place.

Their immediate return to Dundee after the London meeting may indicate a wish to revise such tactics. However, Timex in Connecticut and Dundee would make no comment on the outcome of the meeting.

Convenors from the Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union in Dundee said they were continuing with plans for the third mass rally at the factory gates on Monday.

Two weeks ago, 16 people were arrested as demonstrators attempted to halt buses taking replacement workers to the plant.

After the demonstration, exclusion notices ordered by a Scottish court were served on some members of Scottish Militant Labour, prohibiting them from demonstrating outside the factory.

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