Striking Clarks staff marching through the streets. Striking Clarks staff marching through the streets. Source: Sean Coote

Clarks staff enter the seventh week of strike and are growing stronger by the day, reports Sean Coote

This Saturday saw a highly encouraging turnout in Street for the march and rally in support of striking Clarks warehouse workers, still standing firm in the face of the company’s fire and rehire tactics.

Marching from the gates of the distribution centre to a rally at Woods Batch Park, vociferous support was given by the local community to the strikers, and the 400 or so marchers who’d travelled from as far afield as Manchester (and even Belgium) to show their solidarity. 

Marching from the gates of the distribution centre to a rally at Woods Batch Park. Source: Sean Coote

As of Monday, the strike will be entering its seventh week. Clarks and their Hong Kong-based owners Lion Rock Capital have already admitted to employing temporary operatives to cover tasks usually done by those now taking industrial action, a move being challenged by lawyers representing Community Union and their members.

This past week the company put on the table a revised offer of £10.03 per hour (still representing a pay cut of more than a pound an hour). Worse, this offer would only stand if the union ended the strike with immediate effect if workers undertake to cease legal claims for unfair dismissal and pledge to take no further industrial action in the future. As Community Union rep Trevor Stephens told me, “That’s not going to happen”.

Speakers at the rally included Trevor himself as well as Tracey Turton of Unison (who’ve donated £2000 to the strike fund). Former local postman and current Secretary of the Mendip Trades Council Dave Chapple spoke of his pride that the current action was so far the longest undertaken in the county since the NGA took on “champagne socialist Robert Maxwell in 1986”. 

Workers at Woods Batch Park. Source: Sean Coote

Deputy General Secretary of the TUC Paul Nowak also put the dispute in its local context. “There were people applauding that march as we went through. It’s such a shame that Clarks is putting at risk that local goodwill, that local history and that local connection… It’s time to end fire and rehire once and for all.”

As the tireless Trevor Stephens put it when he addressed his comrades and neighbours, “we’ve got the support, we’ve just got to keep going and stay strong…”

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