Old-style tactics for new Yarrow strikers: James Cusick visits Clydeside, where they're remembering history

(First Edition)

We're at the gate now every day As you know a phone call away So now's the time to get round the table And make the workforce a wee bit stable

POEMS pasted on to lamp-posts by striking Glasgow shipyard workers are hardly the stuff Red Clydeside legend is made of. But on Friday, two weeks into the walkout out by 1,300 employees at the Yarrow warship yard, the first strike over pay for 20 years was being described in verse.

Tam Clark, his hands warming over the fire burning away inside a discarded steel drum, turned in his first rhymer-in-residence performance on the picket line:

Pay deal settlement 92 Our money is long overdue

Explanations of why they are on strike are shouted above the noise of passing lorries. No wage increase since July 1991; Yarrow's offer will mean the end of Friday morning tea-breaks; special payments for ship trials will go - the frustrations of Britain's years of taming trade unionism overflows.

Mr Clark says: 'We've had years of doing everything they've asked. Its back to us and them.' As Yarrow's management and the union leader met in talks in Glasgow, those on the picket line turned to tales of life inside the yard. 'I'll tell you what they were planning - cameras in the toilets. I kid you not.'

Yarrow's order books currently contain work to take it to 1996. Five frigates for the Royal Navy and two for Malaysia is a healthy workload for the GEC-owned yard. However, Yarrow says the defence market is 'not a dripping roast'. There is no money for a basic wage increase now. A 300 one-off payment is on offer. Eight months of negotiations on the whole package ended on 7 February when 1,300 went on strike.

Picket duty, braziers, strike funds, strike meetings, strike pay - the vocabulary of dispute has had to be resurrected. Bobby Graham, a shop steward, hates the comparisons with the days of Jimmy Reid and Jimmy Airlie in the early 1970s. 'Try what they did then and you're in jail now.'

Reid and Airlie were the leaders of the Upper Clyde Shipbuilders work-in. The Heath Government in July 1971 decided to allow the UCS consortium of shipyards to go into liquidation. Eight thousand jobs would go, even more in supply industries.

Under previous Labour government, Connells, Yarrows, Stephens, John Browns and Fairfields were merged. Scott Lithgow remained under the control of the Lithgow family. An industry which once accounted fortwo-thirds of Britain's shipbuilding and had a workforce of more than 50,000 was to go.

When the Government announced on June 14, 1971 that it would not intervene to save UCS - only the warship Yarrow yard would continue - the Clyde shop stewards, then in the Commons gallery, went back to Glasgow, staged a work-in that received world-wide attention, and eventually forced an embarrassing U-turn on the Heath cabinet.

But Reid, now a television presenter, and Airlie, who has progressed up the union ladder to head the AEEU, are not regarded as heroes. 'They're dead. They're Tories now,' said Mr Graham. 'This is real life here. The old days of 'hands up and everyone out' are gone. Airlie said the Hoover deal in Cambuslang, a 10 per cent pay cut, was a good deal. How is that good?'

Jimmy Reid was once a Communist councillor in Clydebank, and he has just finished a television documentary on the fall of world-wide Communism. He admits he cannot escape from the UCS days. 'I was aware then that disputes are won outside the factory, not inside.

What he calls 'the swaggering rhetoric and militancy' of the unions in the Seventies and early Eighties, with subsequent loss of public support, brought the legislation from the Thatcher Government which curbed their power. Now he thinks the pendulum is swinging back. 'The feeling over what happened to the pits; workers being excluded from everything, and Britain's unions being the weakest in Europe. I think the 90s will be a more successful decade for the trade unions.'

The dispute at the Timex factory in Dundee is already set to test Mr Reid's reasoning. This week the American multi-national company dismissed 320 workers at the end of a two-week strike. Initially concerned with how lay-offs should be achieved, a senior executive from Connecticut arrived in Dundee last week to end the strike. The company then announced that unless a wage freeze, cuts in benefits, and increased working hours were accepted all those on strike would be dismissed.

On Thursday Timex began replacing the 320 sacked workers with new recruits. One Timex insider told the Independent on Sunday: 'They are damn serious about this.' Adverts in local papers had produced hundreds of applications. Dundee's unemployment rate is 11.6 per cent. A high percentage of those will have worked for Timex at one time or another. Seasonal and part-time workers may try and grab the rare opportunity of full time work.

However union activists in Dundee are already planning mass demonstrations outside Timex to prevent others joining the dozen or so new recruits. A senior police officer said: 'We are now planning for the worst. This may get out of hand.'

(Photographs omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
Homeless Veterans charity auction: Cook with Angela Hartnett and Neil Borthwick at Merchants Tavern
charity appeal
Sport
Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
boxing Boxer Amir Khan will travel to Pakistan in bid to 'make a difference' in the wake of army school massacre
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly finalists Simon Webbe, Caroline Flack, Mark Wright and Frankie Bridge
tvLive: Simon Webbe, Caroline Flack, Mark Wright and Frankie Bridgeface-off in the final
Sport
Ched Evans in action for Sheffield United in 2012
footballRonnie Moore says 'he's served his time and the boy wants to play football'
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture