Former employees of a packaging firm in Dundee have seized the factory and have started a workers’ co-operative to run the failed firm themselves.
Incredibly, both business chiefs and socialist die-hards are hailing the move as revolutionary and say similar the worker buy-outs could be the way to stave off mass unemployment during the recession.
The Soviet-style bid to take over the company began last week when staff members at Prisme Packaging were told the business was to cease trading with immediate effect, and that there was no money in the coffers to pay their redundancy. The 12 disgruntled employees decided to occupy the factory until they were paid.
The group contacted the Big Issue Scotland after their first night at the plant. Speaking from inside the doors, 25-year-old employee Matthew Duffield said: “We’re very frustrated and we want what we are entitled to by law.”
During their week-long sit-in, the workers became convinced they could keep the business running. After consulting Dundee North Law centre, they are now taking legal action to secure their redundancy money and ensure Prisme is dissolved legally.
“They treated us like second class citizens and wanted to wash their hands of us,” said employee David Taylor. “We were not prepared to accept this. We’re not militant people – just little people who refused to be little anymore. We stood up for what we believe in and we are all proud of that.”
The Dundee employees have now forged plans to take over the cardboard box-making business as a collective, and begin trading again under a different name. Some members of staff have worked at the factory for 14 years, and contacted clients to ensure enough business would still be there.
“We know what we’re doing and we think we can run it better ourselves,” said Duffield. “We have customers quite willing to come back to us. It’s early days, but we’re confident we can make it work.”
Duffield said the co-operative was already negotiating to rent the industrial unit warehouse from the existing landlord, and have been give first refusal on the cutting tables and box-making machines by the firm who had leased Prisme equipment.The Dundonian workers have received supplies from friends and family, and funding from local trade unionists.
Business bodies have hailed their “entrepreneurial” ingenuity, oddly in tune with the socialist parties who have also united in praise of the defiant enactment of Marxist principle.
“It’s a tale of people getting to the end of their tether and saying we’re not taking anymore,” said firebrand socialist and Celebrity Big Brother contestant Tommy Sheridan. “They’ve showed tremendous courage to take the stand they’ve made. They’ve turned their defiance into something positive, and it shows their initiative to take it further and start a cooperative. They may not have realised it, but they’ve planted a flag for socialism and worker’s control.”
A spokesman for the Federation of Small Businesses said: “It is a viable way forward for people. It shows there are opportunities for the entrepreneurial spirit even as businesses collapse this year. Anything that helps save jobs and keeps places open can only be a good thing.”
Dundee MP and SNP deputy leader in the Commons Stewart Hosie is also excited. “I am delighted that they have taken it upon themselves to start a phoenix company which will benefit from their experience and their years of working together. They are doing all the right things to make this business work as a co-operative.”
The Dundee start-up comes in the same week as one woman in Dorset re-opened the Woolworths branch she worked in before the company’s collapse.
Claire Robertson, 34, who had been with the firm for 18 years since starting as a Saturday girl, re-launched the popular Dorchester branch as Wellworths. She has promised to keep the famous Pick ‘n’ Mix selection, and hopes the shop will become known as Wellies.
None of the management from Prisme Packaging were returning calls for comment.
Adam Forrest, Big Issue Scotland