North West Wales

Friction workers reunite 10-years after strike began

A reunion has been held for those involved in one of Wales' longest-running industrial disputes.

Workers at the Friction Dynamics site near Caernarfon, Gwynedd, picketed for two and a half years after being sacked by the company's American owner, Craig Smith, in May 2001.

The eighty six workers later won their wrongful dismissal claim at an employment tribunal in 2003.

Originally, the workers had gone on strike over working conditions.

The dispute lasted from June 2001 until just before Christmas in 2004 when an industrial tribunal in Liverpool decided they had been unfairly dismissed.

But that was not the end of the complicated saga.

The sacked workers were expecting compensation but the old company Friction Dynamics had gone into administration in August 2003, and a new company, Dynamex Friction, began production on the site two weeks later.

It was in August last year that the workers finally accepted that they would not be getting their compensation.

The reunion was held at Caernarfon Football Club on Friday evening.

Not just the workers were involved, people who had helped them were also there, including a union official from London who had turned up to provide the workers with a van full of food.

"It was seven to eight months in, so it was beginning to bite, and morale was struggling," said Gerald Parry, former Transport and General Workers Union branch official at the factory.

"Eddie McDermott from London brought a lorry load of turkeys, hams, veg, fruit... everything, to the picket line.

"It was a fantastic gesture, that he drove all the way, had organised it," he added.

Image caption The dispute in Caernarfon was one of the longest-running in Wales

Another former worker, John Davies, said he also remembered the "fantastic support" from the local community.

"They immediately knew of our plight and came round with morale support," he said.

Mr Davies said that without that support "morale would have really collapsed".

Bill Morris, former general secretary of the Transport and General Workers Union was also at the reunion on Friday.

He said the Friction workers' fight was still relevant over a decade later.

"I think we can draw strength, 10 years on, that what is important is that we continue to make an argument for fairness and justice," he said.

"(And) the community solidarity here tonight shows that those arguments are being made," he added.

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