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Posted on 26 October 2011 at 16:19 GMT

'Van loads of men' turned away at Carrington paper mill site

Hugh Caffrey
Electrician construction workers: protest at Cannon Street, London , photo Paul Mattsson

Electrician construction workers: protest at Cannon Street, London , photo Paul Mattsson   (Click to enlarge)

Electrical work at Carrington paper mill again ground to a halt on the Balfours job. Most of the Balfours lads stayed away.

The protests are clearly having an effect on the companies, several of which are increasing the threats to workers of sackings.

Despite this, five vans of workers again refused to pass the protest and numerous other vehicles were turned away after a discussion with protesters about the pay cuts.

Electrician construction workers: protest at Cannon Street, London , photo Paul Mattsson

Electrician construction workers: protest at Cannon Street, London , photo Paul Mattsson   (Click to enlarge)

Steve Acheson, Unite construction branch secretary and Rank & File steering committee member, told me:

"This was a fantastic result and way exceeded all our expectations. Vanloads of men were turned away while lorries were backed up to the gate all morning.

"We even stopped the crane, and they had to resort to sneaking in a different entrance! Several electricians from the site joined us on the picket, while senior management at Saica [the company for which the project is being done - HC] told us they're deeply unhappy with Balfours for being slow and only doing 25% of the work.

"One of the lads on the site was victimised for refusing to cross the protest two weeks ago. He was blatantly victimised because he was replaced straight away.

"We told management that we would block the road until they agreed to look into the case, and by 9.30am they agreed to do that.

"We also told them that we'll be coming back next week and every week indefinitely, even if the pay-cutting and deskilling issue was resolved tomorrow, until this lad is reinstated.

"It's important the employers see that we are determined to defend our lads when they're victimised, we're resolved that we will get him his job back".

Unite ballot

Rob Williams, National Shop Stewards Network and Socialist Party, on the Electrician construction workers: protest at Cannon Street, London , photo Paul Mattsson

Rob Williams, National Shop Stewards Network and Socialist Party, on the Electrician construction workers: protest at Cannon Street, London , photo Paul Mattsson   (Click to enlarge)

The Socialist Party has argued for an official strike ballot at the soonest possible date, while explaining that unofficial action from below will also be crucial to defeating the employers.

The national demonstration on 9th November will be useful in so far as it is a lever to mass strike action, through a huge show of strength to workers and employers.

The ballot at Balfours (BBES) runs from 14 to 28 November with the first date of strike action on 7 December, the day on which the Seven employers intend to impose the new pay-slashing contracts.

Workers will be encouraged and emboldened by the fact of Unite balloting, but there is a real danger that this is too little too late.

If or when the employers legally challenge the strike ballot, Unite could be prevented by the anti-union laws from legally and officially striking before the contracts are imposed.

Rank and file protests have pointed the way forward at each stage despite weeks of prevarication and hostility from the Unite bureaucracy over the summer.

While in recent weeks, top Unite officials have said many fine words at London protests, there's little or no sign of them on the ground elsewhere.

Disgracefully, national official McAulay called good activists "cancerous", when these trade unionists are doing the officials' jobs for them!

What is needed now is for Unite to match speeches with deeds, mobilise the mass of members in all construction trades to the weekly protests, organise a colossal turnout for 9th November and discuss with activists how this can be best achieved.

There needs to be a serious discussion about whether the ballot can be brought forward. And above all, we need strike action across as many sites as possible at the earliest possible date, whether that is the 7th November or on the 30th November when most public-sector unions intend to strike.

The employers are not in a strong position and can be compelled to retreat if decisive action is built, from above and especially from below.

Next North West protest: Wednesday 2nd November, 6.30am, Carrington paper mill, Carrington.

Site manager in London admits wage cutting scandal

Neil Cafferky

A site manager on the Land Securities-owned 110 Cannon Street development has admitted the wage cutting plans of employers. When questioned by a Morning Star journalist this morning about whether electricians on site were being paid 12 an hour, which is below the JIB agreed rate, the site manager replied that if it was up to him workers on site would be paid 1 an hour!

The remarks came at the end of the rank and file construction workers' weekly protest at different sites across London on Wednesday 26th October.

This week the protest returned to the Balfour Beatty site at Blackfriars station. Despite torrential rain protesters were in fine voice with an impromptu march setting off for Cannon Street about 10 minutes up the road.

A number of protesters managed to invade the site and hang a banner saying "All Power to the Sparks" on the scaffolding facing out onto Cannon Street.

A representative from the sparks also went on site to discuss with the workers about spreading the action against the employers' attempts to tear up the JIB agreement.

An impromptu rally with a number of speakers was held on the corner of Cannon Street and Laurence Poutney Lane, including National Shop Stewards Network chair Rob Williams.

A portico on the side of BBVA bank served as an excellent stage for a militant workers' rally, probably not a use ever foreseen by the building's architects! A number of office workers could be seen watching the speeches from their offices, perhaps reflecting on their own conditions of work and the example set by the electricians in fighting back.

The main topic of conversation during the protest was the Construction Industry Day of Action on 9th November.

A leaflet distributed by Site Worker asked people to come to the Pinnacle Building Site at Bishopsgate, near Liverpool Street station.

Construction workers will be holding one more protest in London before the day of action, on Wednesday 2nd November at 110 Cannon street, assembling at 6.30am.

As always the NSSN would urge all supporters to go down and get behind this vital struggle.

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.

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