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Construction workers strike to defend agreements
"All we'll have is an existence - not a life"
On 26 September around 400 electricians from the West Burton power station site in Nottinghamshire walked out on strike for the day. They were joined by workers from Saltend and a few other workplaces.
They went to the Lindsey and the ConocoPhillips refineries near Immingham, seeking support in their struggle to resist attacks on their terms and conditions contained in the Joint Industry Board (JIB) national agreement.
They came to Lindsey because that site and the engineering construction industry in general is covered by the NAECI 'blue book' agreement on terms and conditions. Electricians working on a NAECI site get NAECI rates, which are superior to the JIB rates.
But when they leave a 'blue book' site they go back onto JIB terms and conditions. Obviously if the JIB bosses get away with cutting those conditions and pay by 20-30% as they want to, then the NAECI employers will not sit still.
There were protests outside both plants and around 100 workers from Lindsey came out in support and to participate in a gate meeting.
Then we marched down from Lindsey to the Conoco site. There was a determined mood to fight to save these agreements. The workers understand that if it's the JIB now it will be the NAECI next.
Angry workers protest
About 20 electricians protested from 6.30am outside the Manchester Town Hall construction site on 21 September.
The site entrances were all barred and guarded by security so it was more like a lockdown than a workplace.
Nevertheless numerous workers going out for tea or food took the Siteworker leaflets explaining the plans of the major construction companies for pay cuts, enforced by mass dismissals and re-engagements.
Pride of place went to Steve Acheson's banner: "Defend Trade Union Agreement - union rates for all" - fresh from a protest the day before at the Fiddlers Ferry power station site.
The previous week the sparks had protested at the Carrington paper mill site.
A text was received from inside the project saying that Siteworker was the "talk of the site" showing that the tactic of going to the workplace gates is beginning to pay off.
Andy Ford, Warrington trades council
On the same day in North Tyneside, around 150 construction workers protested outside the site entrance of the new Tyne tunnel. Workers from the site told us that when the contractors found out there was going to be a protest, realising it was going to be well supported, they told them they didn't need to go into work until 10am!
The protesters held up placards: "35% pay cut - no way" and "Spread the action - walk out now." Many of the workers were young electricians.
One of them commented: "In the past construction workers could afford mortgages, had nice homes. Now loads of us are having to live with our parents until our mid 30s."
Another commented: "If they go ahead with these wage cuts, all we'll have is an existence - not a life!"
Jimmy Warne, branch chair of Unite Newcastle branch 1901, explained: "Eight major contractors have served notice that they intend to walk away from national agreements.
"This action is in coordination with the rank and file committee that was set up in Conway Hall, London.
"The purpose is to force the union into a national ballot. Already Balfour Beatty has served notice on over 800 sparks, telling them if they don't sign up to new agreements they'll be sacked.
"We say our response to this will be to walk out. This action will happen locally and nationally".
Jimmy went on to express his anger at Ed Miliband, who was "very quick to attack unions for striking while negotiations [on pensions] were ongoing, but stays silent while bosses attack workers' pay and conditions without negotiations."
Elaine Brunskill, Newcastle Socialist Party
In The Socialist 28 September 2011:
Building for 30 November strike
Jarrow march for jobs
The Socialist's editorials
Socialist Party youth and students
Socialist Party news and analysis
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party workplace news
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