Unite heritage union hero Robert Somerville, who sadly passed on Thursday, September 30 at the age of 85, was among the Rolls-Royce workers who took a brave stand against Pinochet’s regime, as UniteLive highlights here.
Among those that Robert and his union comrades helped save was Sergio Requena-Rueda, a Chilean trade unionist imprisoned and tortured under Pinochet’s rule, who later migrated to the UK and joined Unite.
Sergio reflects on Robert’s brave stand below:
I first met Robert at a Rolls-Royce shop stewards meeting in East Kilbride. I had been invited by the branch to a commemoration of solidarity action taken by blacking the maintenance of the Rolls-Royce Hawker Hunter engines.
These jets had been used to bombard the Chilean Palace of the democratically elected Allende Government and several civilian locations. This action subsequently paralysed the Chilean Air Force. I don’t believe that Robert realised the importance of his solidarity action at the time.
I had been arrested and detained in Villa Grimaldi because of my resistance to the Pinochet regime. At that time, during a break in my interrogation, when they were trying to break my will, I heard the news headlines about the blacking of the Rolls-Royce engines by the East Kilbride workers.
For me personally, it was a huge morale boost to hear this after a month of interrogation and torture. I realised I was not alone. I cannot begin to tell you how this felt; it was such a strong feeling of solidarity.
The action of Robert and his comrades was on a par with that of the Volunteers of the 5th Brigade who went to fight for the Republic in the Spanish Civil War against the fascist regime of Franco.
Comrade Robert Somerville, you showed us the true meaning of workers’ solidarity.
Hasta la Victoria siempre!
By Sergio Requena-Rueda