Defending the Right to Work: The 1983 Timex Workers’ Occupation in Dundee

Author: Valerie Wright, Jim Philips, Jim Tomlinson
This is the abstract of an article published in Labour History Review (2021), 86, (1), 63-90. Find out more.

In January 1983 the US-owned multinational Timex, a prominent employer in Dundee since 1946, announced it would cease production of mechanical wristwatches in the city. Substantial redundancies would accompany closure of the Milton of Craigie production unit where 2,000 mainly male skilled engineers and toolmakers were employed. About 2,000 mainly female assembly-line workers would be retained at another factory in the city, at Camperdown, as Timex completed its diversification into subcontracting work in electronics. With this announcement Timex violated the workforce’s moral economy. Significant changes were only permissible where negotiated with union representatives and where the security of those affected was preserved. Capital was leaving Dundee despite the firm’s receipt of many grants from national and local government. On 8 April Milton workers resisted compulsory redundancy by occupying their plant. Timex was not stopped from ending watch-making but compulsory redundancies were averted and a union voice was preserved. Those who wished were transferred to Camperdown. The occupation was a crucial episode in Dundee’s deindustrialization, but has been obscured in popular memory by the bitter dispute accompanying the firm’s final departure from the city in 1993.

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