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May Day: Start of a new world

On 1 May, former Prisme workers re-launched themselves as Discovery Packaging and Design (DPD) after the “long hard slog” of a seven-week occupation (see PN 2508). A week later, David Taylor from DPD told me how business was looking promising for the new company, which employs half of the original workforce of 12. There are potential customers in the pipeline and an open day was planned, aiming at small- to medium-sized clients from the engineering, confectionery and whisky industries.

The occupation had received support from all over the world, with emails of solidarity coming from as far as New Zealand. They had also received solidarity visits from other workers’ occupations, including Visteon car workers from Belfast, who returned to work on 19 May after achieving an improved redundancy package, and the Waterford Crystal workers, who subsequently ended their occupation and returned to work.

David explained how the situation of the Prisme workers had differed from that of the Irish occupations because they were not unionised, and their bosses had offered no redundancy package at all. The decision to occupy was “a no-brainer; we had no redundancy money and if you are getting nothing then you have nothing to lose but your self-respect and pride.”

Regarding the lack of union membership, David felt in some ways that this had been a positive, because they had achieved everything off their own backs and had made all their own decisions, with no one suggesting that they take the occupation in any particular direction.

David also reflected on one of the last major disputes in the UK, the ill-fated Timex strike, also in Dundee, which resulted in defeat for unionised workers when the works closed in 1993. However, “Don’t get me wrong,” he clarified: Prisme workers would be looking to become unionised as soon as possible.

The occupation had benefited greatly from advice from several unions, including representatives from UNISON, UNITE and the firefighters’ union, the FBU. The Prisme workers developed links with organisers of occupations in Glasgow primary schools, where 23 primary schools are currently under threat of closure as part of cost-saving exercises. There are plans to retain links with these and other supporters who maintained the solidarity that was instrumental in keeping the Prisme occupation going.

David underlined this in his message to PN readers: “A big, wholehearted thanks to everyone who sent messages of support, even if it was just an email.”