Protesters clash with police over mass sacking: Anger at Timex decision to bus in workers leads to 16 arrests

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MORE THAN 600 demonstrators protesting at the sacking of 343 workers at Timex's Dundee factory and the busing in of replacement workers, clashed with police yesterday.

Sixteen people were arrested, including Tommy Sheridan, the leader of Scottish Militant Labour. Militant was among groups from all over Scotland that joined the protest. Later, the Communist Party of Great Britain, said that Tam Dean Burn, its leader in Scotland, had been arrested. A policewoman was slightly injured when a car ran over her foot.

A rally in the city on Saturday attracted 5,000 people, among them Tom Clarke, the shadow Secretary of State for Scotland, and Campbell Christie, the secretary of the Scottish TUC. They urged a large turn-out for yesterday's demonstration.

Timex in Dundee, acting on a directive from its company headquarters in the United States, dismissed 343 hourly- paid staff on 17 February, after a protracted dispute over enforced lay-offs. Following a two-week strike and the refusal of hourly- paid staff to accept a 10 per cent pay cut and new working conditions before being allowed back to work, 343 assembly employees, mainly women, were sacked.

Timex has since been busing in alternative workers to carry on the factory production. As two buses carrying the replacement workers approached the gates at about 9.15am yesterday protesters lay down in the buses' paths. Fists banged on the side of the buses and abuse was shouted at those inside. Demonstrators broke through the police cordons and the buses were delayed for about two hours.

The number of pickets and demonstrators has rarely exceeded 150 since the mass sacking. Although union officials had informed the police over the weekend to expect a high turn- out, police numbers were relatively low at 7am, then increased to 80 officers as the likelihood of conflict increased.

Officials from the AEEU, the engineering and electrical union, which represents most of the sacked workers, claimed that when the police did arrive in numbers 'they were heavy- handed'. Charlie Malone, a shop steward at Timex, said: 'They came too late. And their response was overly-physical. Individuals were targeted to show a quick example.' Tayside Police would only confirm that 14 arrests had been made.

A public relations firm in Edinburgh, appointed by Timex, said in a statement: 'Management. . . deplores the activity of protesters this morning, tactics which are designed only to intimidate the workers who are coming into the plant.'

(Photograph omitted)