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31st August - further day of protest by construction workers
As part of their ongoing campaign against the 'Big 8' construction employers' attempts to impose a 35% cut in wages, hundreds of electricians and other construction workers protested this morning outside the Westfield shopping centre in Stratford in East London.
As we reported last week when participating in the first protest outside the London Blackfriars train station site action (Construction workers fight to defend national agreements in London and Manchester), the employers want to de-skill these workers and withdraw from the JIB national agreement by recategorising electricians' jobs.
This could lead to some seeing their wages reduced from £16.25 to £10.50 per hour. It would also open the door to the bosses doing away with 'seniority', so they can pick and choose who stays on the site.
Considering the amount of victimisation and blacklisting in the industry this would clearly mean trade unionists being the first out of the door.
Many of the workers on the site today stopped and listened to the speakers. It's clear that this is the first time that many of them have heard about the employers' intentions and were very angry.
Potential for the campaign
One group of workers from North Yorkshire said that they had thought that the protest was yesterday and had been waiting since 6.30am! This shows that while the sites haven't been stopped at this stage, there is huge potential to build the campaign, building confidence to take action in the near future.
We gave out leaflets calling for the unions in the industry - Unite, Ucatt and the GMB to ballot nationally for strike action to force the employers to back down.
Therefore it was unfortunate to say the least that again no officials from Unite were at the protest.
Mick Dooley, who is standing for the Ucatt general secretary election promised that if elected, he would attend every protest and picket line.
RMT regional organiser Steve Hedley gave his union's support, explaining how the RMT has got London two tube drivers reinstated because they were prepared to take action.
Rob Williams, the chair of the National Shop Stewards Network, gave a warning from his experience as a convenor in the car industry: "We were always told that if only we made some concession to our terms and conditions that we'd be ok but they always come back for more".
He appealed to construction workers to come to the NSSN rally and lobby of the TUC on Sunday 11th September in London.
The protest ended with a speech by Tony Benn who reminded everyone how workers have always had to fight to get decent conditions.
Next Wednesday there will be another protest at the Shard site in London Bridge from 6.30am.
Socialist Party reporters
This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 31 August 2011 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.