Union members at the Cammell Laird shipyard in Birkenhead are united in a rolling strike action to defend their jobs after the company announced plans to make around forty percent of the workforce redundant just after winning a huge £619 million contract.
Unions say that the redundancies are part of a move by the shipyard to ‘casualise’ the workforce, replacing permanent employees with contractors who can be let go cheaply in slower periods, to boost profits. The striking workers have received huge support from local people, including a major show of solidarity by fans at last week’s Merseyside derby.
This solidarity has helped the strike take effect, with gas shortages reported on the Cammell Laird site as early as the first day of the strike.
As the SKWAWKBOX revealed, employees have been warned that they risk the sack if they talk to the media, or even comment on social media – but opponents of the strike seem to face no such strictures and some have engaged in an apparently-coordinated social media campaign attempting to disrupt and clutter supportive threads on Twitter.
This campaign involves accounts that suddenly materialised in late November and early this month, as the strike started and began to bite – and which seem to exist for no, or almost no, purpose except to attack pro-strike tweets and accounts.
Almost all of the accounts are anonymous, though some claim to be of shipyard employees or ex-employees, and one (not shown) bears the name of a real employee of the firm who works in a director’s office and at least one of the anonymous accounts has been linked to an office-based employee.
Many of the tweets simply attempt to disrupt or denigrate points made by supporters of the workers, or to talk up the employer – but others have a more abusive tone:
The accounts followed by the troll accounts are in some cases suggestive of Blairite interests. Their tweets concentrate, though not exclusively, on a particular union employee and a convenor at the shipyard.
The social media campaign is not the only way in which opposition to the strike appears to be coordinated. A petition has been set up to object to the industrial action and displays a stream of insults and abuse toward the same two union officers. This will feature in a separate article shortly, along with details of attempts to obtain comment from the company and an employee involved with the petition.
The union members taking the action appear to be holding firm against the efforts to undermine them, in spite of the asymmetrical nature of the situation created by the ban on employees talking to the media or on social media about the strike.
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