ITF-IndustriAll joint initiative aims to unite workers across supply chains at geographical industrial hubs.

Industrial Hubs

A new programme to unite workers across sectors was launched in Scotland last week. The “industrial hubs” programme aims to use ports and geographical industrial hubs to build workers’ power across supply chains.

The project is a joint initiative between the global unions the ITF (International Transport Workers’ Federation) and IndustriALL. It was launched in Grangemouth, Scotland.

Industrial hubs are used strategically by employers to bring together related industries. Employers want to save money and improve efficiency; having lots of strands of the supply chain converging at one geographical point helps to achieve that. The port in Grangemouth is a perfect example. It’s a key exit and entry point for UK trade. This convergence is an ideal organising opportunity.

Grangemouth is situated on the Firth of Forth, near Falkirk, and has been an industrial hub for more than a century, due to its strategic location between Scotland’s two largest cities, Edinburgh and Glasgow. It has a large petrochemical industry, and is best known for the INEOS refinery, pictured above.

A cross-sectoral global union training seminar was held to launch the programme, with attendees from the UK as Norway, Ireland, North America and the Arab world. The hubs programme was launched in conjunction with the Unite union, with plans to develop it on an international scale.

The programme is designed to bring together workers who are linked by the same geographical industrial hub – and part of the same supply chain – to give their unions more industrial power and influence over negotiations with management and decisions made by employers. Unions representing workers in oil, manufacturing, food and drink, maritime, dockers, construction, road and rail were all part of the workshops.

Mark Lyon

Mark Lyon

The programme is coordinated by Mark Lyon, an experienced trade unionist and former convenor at the INEOS refinery. Speaking about the training seminar, he said: “We’ve had mind blowing potential in the room in Grangemouth this week; across sectors and across continents.

“To be clear, we’re not building a council of war here. As trade unions we want to work with good employers, we can help them. But where there are rogue employers who don’t respect the rights of workers we need to protect our members, and working collectively, building our strength by breaking down the barriers between sectors – that’s what the industrial hubs programme is all about.

“Grangemouth is an obvious industrial hub as a key exit and entry point for good in the UK – 10% of the GDP of Scotland comes through the port. But industrial hubs don’t have to be ports, airports too are crucial convergence points for supply chains. What we’ve developed is a model that can be translated globally.”

Our hubs: it’s about survival

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Walton Pantland

South African trade unionist living in Glasgow. Loves whisky, wine, running and the great outdoors. Walton did an MA in Industrial Relations at Ruskin, Oxford, and is interested in how trade unions use new technology to organise.

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