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Lee Jeans sit-in success?
Frogmarch 2002 - Whitby
tobyaw
The BBC reports the 30th anniversary of the Lee Jeans factory sit-in in Greenock, which it calls a “a highly significant chapter in Scottish labour relations”. At an event at the Scottish Parliament yesterday, Duncan McNeil, Labour MSP for Greenock and Inverclyde, called it “a landmark victory against a US multinational”.

After a seven-month sit-in in 1981, a management buy-out saved the factory, and the 140 protesting workers were re-employed. It was hailed a great victory.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-glasgow-west-12703205 (recent news story)
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-12366211 (a bit of history)

Two years later, in June 1983, the new management called in receivers, and the factory closed.

Is the sit-in something to celebrate? Or just a sad footnote in the history of Scotland's industrial decline?
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There were two years of business and employment that there wouldn't otherwise have been.

I'm inclined towards the sad footnote option, given the closure, but that might be due to the change of management rather than the business being inherently unprofitable. If the business was in good shape, but the original management proposed ditching their work force in favour of government grants elsewhere, that is pretty reprehensible socially and it's understandable why the work force would feel ill-used. Other countries, such as Germany, have employment laws to protect against such behaviour, and still manage to have profitable businesses.

I don't think I would personally have supported the sit-in though.

It’s a complex bit of history, but I felt the reporting of success and celebration was a bit off. But maybe it suits some politicians to revel in a story about workers winning against management.

The really interesting aspect of the story was the implied attempt by NI to “poach” an international company from Scotland. Grants to develop businesses in deprived areas are commonplace, and should be more controversial.

I remember my father’s business having problems competing with companies manufacturing similar products; companies that were supported by government and EU grants and tax breaks because of where they were located.

There has been a recent controversy over tax breaks for computer games companies in Scotland; I feel uneasy about the distorting effect of government support for industry.

(Of course nowadays, with all the cuts, there isn’t the money for grants or tax breaks…)

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