North West Wales

Friction Dynamics strike: Plaque marks 'longest' dispute

TGWU members holding a Friction Dynamex branch banner

A plaque to mark one of the longest-running industrial disputes in British history has been unveiled in Gwynedd.

The Friction Dynamics strike in Caernarfon saw workers picketing their factory for almost 1,000 days between April 2001 and December 2003.

But despite winning an industrial tribunal, they never received damages.

A rally inspired by those held by the strikers was held, with the former trade union leader Lord Bill Morris paying tribute to their stand.

Image caption The plaque marks the fight by more than 80 workers for justice

Originally called Ferodo, the factory opened in in 1962 employing more than 2,000 workers manufacturing brake parts for the motoring industry.

In 1997 the company was renamed Friction Dynamics by new owner, American Craig Smith.

By then the number employed at the factory had fallen to 220.

The relationship between the new owner and some of the workforce tuned sour and, in April 2001, members of the Transport and General Workers' Union began industrial action in a dispute over wholesale changes to working conditions, including changes to shifts and pay cuts.

Image caption Former TGWU leader Bill Morris paid tribute to the Friction Dynamex workers in Caernarfon on Monday

Union members picketed the factory after being locked out and eight weeks later bosses sacked the TGWU members which led to the three-year dispute.

In October 2002, an employment tribunal found the workers had been unfairly dismissed.

But before compensation could be paid, Friction Dynamics called in the receivers in August 2003 and all workers were sacked.

Within three weeks, Mr Smith set up a new company Dynamex Friction.

The TGWU pickets called off their protest during Christmas 2003.

Image caption Friction Dynamics called in the receivers in August 2003 - closed in 2008 - and now lies derelict

Now, the 86 people who took part in the dispute are to be commemorated by a bronze plaque - organised by a committee of people in the town and made by a foundry in Powys.

Although the union, now part of Unite, continued a campaign for compensation, strikers drew a line under their bid in 2010 conceding that they would be unable to get compensation from Mr Smith unless there was a change in the law.

The factory closed completely in 2008 and has remained derelict ever since.

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