The factory workers who defied Chile’s dictator

The former factory workers with one of the engines they refused to work on, effectively grounding the Chilean fighter jets.
The former factory workers with one of the engines they refused to work on, effectively grounding the Chilean fighter jets.

The amazing true story of Scottish factory workers who defied General Pinochet will go on show in cinemas across the UK from November 2.

Nae Pasaran! reveals the incredible impact made by the East Kilbride factory workers more than 40 years ago against one of the most repressive dictatorships of the 20th century.

It reveals how a group of workers at the Rolls-Royce factory in East Kilbride decided to show their support for the people of Chile by refusing to carry out the vital repairs of engines for Hawker Hunter fighter aircraft, used during the brutal right-wing military coup on September 11, 1973.

The boycott endured for four years but the Scottish workers never knew what impact they had. In fact their actions had become known about in Chile.

Director Felipe Bustos Sierra, who lives in Edinburgh, and whose father was a Chilean journalist in exile, reunited Stuart Barrie, Bob Fulton, Robert Somerville, Stuart Barrie and John Keenan, some of the leading protagonists, to tell their story.

The documentary also details the horrors of the Pinochet years, meets survivors and hears the Chilean side of the story.

Speaking earlier this year, Stuart Barrie, one of the shop stewards involved in staging the boycott, described how the decision was made in March 1974.

“I was approached by another AEUW shop steward, Bob Fulton, who said ‘Stuart, there’s Chilean engines in here’. Our union had condemned the Chilean junta’s overthrow of the government and the torturing and killing of civilians and those who opposed it.”

Stuart and Bob decided to ‘black’ the engines – refusing to work on them.

“I was 29 then, a bit of firebrand, I did things like that if I thought it was correct,” added Stuart. “We were all a wee bit proud of the way it worked out. Years later we heard that folk in Chile were inspired by us. We’ve met a guy who was in prison being tortured and he said he heard about our action on the radio his guard had. He said it gave him the will to live. It was a wee spark of life, it lifted him up.”

After four years the engines, which had fallen into disrepair, were removed in the middle of the night. It is believed they were returned to Chile.

Mr Bustos Sierra said the film was a homage to the men.

“The image of the Hawker Hunter planes bombing La Moneda palace is one of the most iconic images of the coup,” he said.

“It was a very strong, irreversible image and the thought that someone somewhere had managed to defeat those planes stayed with me.

“Finding the men meant I could confirm things I thought were exaggerated. Because of what happened in Chile part of our past only exists through oral history. This film is part of the victory.”

Nae Pasaran! celebrated its world premiere at the Closing Gala of Glasgow Film Festival 2018.

The film is nominated for two BAFTA Scotland awards – for ‘Feature Film’ and ‘Director – Factual’.