Theresa Villiers, the Government Rail Minister, pulled out of a Derby conference on the rail industry at the last minute, “running scared” according to those taking part in a picket of the event in support of Derby Bombardier workers.
 
Workers at the Bombardier rail engineering plant are currently receiving redundancy notices as a result of the Government decision to award a £1.4 million contract to Siemens in Dusseldorf, rather than to Bombardier. 
 
The £250 a ticket Derby Rail Forum conference, with Villiers billed as the main keynote speaker was held just half a mile from the Bombardier works. But when the Rail Minister heard that Derby people were mounting a picket organised by the Bombardier Community Support Group, and that the workers and their unions had gained access to the conference to put their views directly to her, she pulled out at the last minute citing “urgent constituency business”. Pickets carried posters showing Villiers dressed as a chicken.
 
The other keynote speaker, Sir Roy McNulty – whose government commissioned report threatens the entire rail industry with a massive 20% cut by 2018 – was smuggled into the Conference through the back door in order to avoid the spirited demonstration.
 
A spokesman for the Support Group said, “Villiers is saying that we’ve made our point, and that we should now stop. Our message to her and her destructive government is that we will go on making our point until they stop – stop destroying jobs and apprenticeships, stop allowing our manufacturing industry to collapse in the face of the European Union’s “race to the bottom”, stop forcing workers in different countries to compete for jobs by reducing skills, pay and conditions”
 
Pickets spoke approvingly of the statements of union leaders Len McCluskey, Bob Crow and Paul Kenny, calling for co-ordinated strike action and civil disobedience in defence of workers’ rights, jobs, industry and public service – and pledged to continue the fight.