A plaque in Gwynned, North Wales commemorates one of the longest (*) industrial disputes in British history.
Feredo, which manufactured brake parts for the motoring industry, was renamed Friction Dynamics in 1997 by its new owner, American Craig Smith. With 220 workers the factory employed just slightly more than a tenth of its original workforce in 1962.
Smith was intent on making radical changes to working conditions that included pay cuts and changes to shifts. After following the legal procedure laid down by Parliament, in April 2001, Transport and General Workers’ Union (TGWU) members began an official strike of one week at the end of which TGWU members set off to return to work, where they were met at the gate by management who demanded that they sign new contracts. When everyone refused to sign the company effectively locked out the workers before sacking them.
Strike action then began and picketing of the factory started, leading to a three-year dispute. In October 2002, an employment tribunal backed the 86 dismissed workers by ruling they had been unfairly dismissed but no compensation was paid — at anytime — when the company called in the receivers. The factory is today derelict.
“ The idea to commemorate the strike was originally proposed by Alun Roberts,” explains striker John Davis, “who approached us saying the community believe there should be something to remember it.
“Alun had just retired as a junior school headmaster in Caernarfon when the strike began. He was active within Plaid Cymru, we worked with all the parties throughout the dispute, like everyone he was disgusted by the attitude of the owner.
“Following Alun’s approach a committee was formed and I was surprised as we successfully set about raising funds for a commemorative plaque just how few young people even knew there had been a dispute.
“The plaque has been placed in a spot where it cannot be missed. It has renewed the interest in the strike. People know how things have developed in the 20 years since the strike and are aware of the situation for workers with zero hours contracts, no sick pay and few permanent jobs. We predicted this – Us today, you tomorrow — when we were on strike as that was what the owner was seeking to do.
“To think we had a Labour government at the time with the biggest majority ever and they did nothing about it. They could have made some dramatic changes to workers’ rights and things would be better now for younger people.
“The plaque reminds people of the strike and all the strikers were pleased to see Gerald Parry unveil it. We are currently working on developing a website that tells the whole history of the strike and lock out. It will include the support we had within the UK and internationally. “
Many thanks to Robin Evans for allowing the use of all four photographs.
John Davis was employed at Feredo and later Friction Dynamics from 1976 onwards and as the face of the strike he found it very difficult to find work. He was unemployed for five years before setting up with two colleagues a co-operative, Red Line Indoor Karting, which has now been going for over 12 years. http://www.redlineindoorkarting.co.uk
- There’s little doubt that once risen the Welsh people are determined — see https://markwrite.co.uk/2018/06/14/the-great-strike-at-penryhn-quarry-1900-03/ The strike at Penrhyn Quarry, Bethesda in North Wales, which began on 22 November 1900 lasted for three years and is the longest dispute in British industrial history.