Electricians picket construction sites and power stations
by Simon Basketter
The battle to stop building bosses tearing up contracts and slashing wages saw pickets in London, Manchester, Newcastle and Nottinghamshire this morning, Wednesday.
Workers picketed the contractor Spie Matthew Hall at the Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station in Nottinghamshire. No electrician is working on site today.
The demonstration caused lengthy traffic tailbacks on the A453 that runs past the site.
In Manchester, workers blocked the entrance at the Carrington paper mill site for the second week in a row.
Electricians are escalating their protests across Britain — despite intimidation.
Some workers have been told they will be sacked if they protest. Socialist Worker has also been told of a number of cases of workers being moved from sites to try and disrupt workers’ organisation.
Up to 300 workers and supporters protested at the Gratte Brothers construction site at Cannon Street in London.
The company is one of seven that have launched an onslaught on electricians’ terms and conditions. They plan to rip up workers’ national agreement and cut wages by a third.
The other contractors are Bailey Building Services, Balfour Beatty Engineering Services, Tommy Clarke, Crown House Technologies, SES and Spie Matthew Hall.
One electrician told Socialist Worker, “They are pushing through new contracts that will push wages down by up to 35 percent. They want to deskill the trade. I won’t be able to work as an electrician if they get away with this.”
One manager at the Cannon Street site said he would pay electricians a pound an hour if he could during a protest last week.
Today it was clearly closed, with no activity on site at all.
One electrician announced, “Congratulations on having the only closed building site in the country with the City of London police providing security.”
Workers voted to move on. But the police were enthusiastic to hold back the protest — so workers occupied Cannon Street station and held an impromptu meeting.
Mick Dooley, the construction campaigner who union officials have excluded from a ballot for the Ucatt union general secretary election, was among the speakers.
He got a huge round of applause.
The workers then moved to march again. They arrived at the Occupy London camp outside St Paul’s Cathedral and assembled on the steps of the church. Live TV crews had little choice but to finally cover their protest — after over two months of weekly demonstrations.
As one electrician put it, “If the media won’t come to us, we’ll just have to get in front of it ourselves.”
Workers are making a strong push for the national day of action on Wednesday of next week.
The Unite union ballot of Balfour Beatty workers is due to start on 14 November.
They plan to call the first official strike for 7 December, the day that bosses will impose new contracts.
“That’s why 9 November is important,” one worker said. “We have to keep up the pressure and escalate. We can’t simply wait for the ballot.”
Rank and file workers have called a protest at 7am at the Pinnacle near Liverpool Street station on the day.
They will then tour construction sites as part of the official action on the day.
One worker told Socialist Worker, “Next week is important, we need thousands out. We need people walking off the job. We are leafleting loads of sites in advance to get people out.”
Supporters from Occupy London and the Education Activist Network joined the electricians today.
There were cheers and applause as they arrived at the protest. Rank and file electricians are determined that their protest next week links up with the students’ national demonstration on the same day.
One said, “The students kick started the resistance last November and they have come and supported us. Next week let’s march together, students and workers united.”
A national day of protest to defend construction workers will take place on Wednesday 9 November. Several actions will take place in London:
7am—assemble at the Pinnacle, 22-24 Bishopsgate, London, EC2