A film documenting the true story of how trade unionists in Scotland, members of Unite’s predecessor unions, took a stand against the Pinochet regime has won the highest honour in Scottish cinema.
The film, Nae Pasaran!, took home the BAFTA Scotland award at an awards ceremony on Sunday (November 4) for Best Feature Film, defeating other nominees Anna and the Apocalypse and The Party’s Just Beginning.
The documentary film features four East Kilbride Rolls-Royce workers — Bob Fulton, Robert Somerville, John Keenan, Stuart Barrie – who refused to repair engines being used by Pinochet which ultimately grounded half of the dictator’s air force.
“Our shop stewards had unanimously condemned the Chilean coup when it happened,” said 77-year-old John Keenan, who is now the Unite Community not-for-profit East Kilbride chair, in an interview with UniteLive earlier this year.
“In April 1974, after the engines came in, our works committee recommended that nobody in the factory work on those engines. That was endorsed by the workforce and the result was that no work was done on those engines.
“There were nine trade unions then, but we spoke as one voice and that was our strength.”
The trade unionists who took a brave stand in support of the Chilean people did not know the impact their actions would have until decades later.
Sergio Requena-Rueda, who later immigrated to the UK and became a Unite shop steward working as a telecoms engineer, has said he owes his life to the East Kilbride workers who boycotted Pinochet’s engines.
While the Scottish workers refused to the repair the engines, Sergio, an ocean away, was being tortured in one of Pinochet’s camps for his involvement in left-wing politics. When he was moments away from giving up – he had at that point endured brutal torture sessions that would last days – he happened to be within earshot of a guardsman’s radio.
It was then that he heard the news of the East Kilbride workers who were refusing to repair Pinochet’s engines.
“I got an indescribable injection of hope,” Sergio told UNITElive earlier this year. “It boosted my morale and it gave me the will to continue with my life. If it weren’t for that moment, I have no doubt I would have given up and died in that prison. I knew then that I wasn’t alone – that there were thousands of workers across the world supporting us.”
Nae Pasaran! documents the struggles both the workers faced in their boycott, which lasted unbroken for four years, and the oppression the Chilean people endured under Pinochet. Local Unite branches played an integral role in crowdfunding for the film, which premiered to rave reviews at the Glasgow Film Festival in March.
Unite general secretary Len McCluskey offered his congratulations after the BAFTA Scotland awards ceremony on Sunday (November 4).
“So proud of our members and the people behind Nae Pasaran,” he tweeted. “A much deserved honour for a fantastic film about the decency of people and the power of their union.”
The film has had its UK-wide general release from November 2 – find out where you can catch the film here.