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Posted on 2 November 2011 at 15:40 GMT

North-west construction protests showing results

Continued protest at the Carrington paper-mill site halted traffic at the site this morning, causing it to back up for miles on either side of the site entrance.

Showing that protest works, Balfours have lost the contract for the second part of the Carrington job.

This follows United Utilities refusing to use any of the pay-slashing seven big construction companies, and rumours of other contracts lost for the same reason.

This is clearly a consequence of the demonstrations and walkouts and fear by clients that this will escalate to bigger protests and strikes.

The 'seven' can be defeated before they impose new contracts on 7th December, and will be if the protests are maintained and significant strike action develops on a number of the big sites.

Sparks from across the north-west have continued the weekly protests and are now preparing for the national demonstration in London next week (9th November).

Management at Carrington might not see next week, some of them nearly died of self-induced stress this morning on the gates! But we continued getting a supportive response from sparks and many other trades across the site, despite Balfour's threat that anyone not working today would be sacked.

Sparks will discuss now what the next steps are locally. Next week's demo is a great chance to discuss with workers and activists regionally and nationally, to plan further protests in the north-west and increase the numbers taking part.

It is a chance too for putting pressure on Unite to back these protests properly and mobilise the members going forward from 9th November.

Hugh Caffrey, Manchester Socialist Party


London electricians took their fight against pay cuts and deskilling to the Gratts-run site at 110 Cannon Street this morning (Wednesday 2nd November).

Sparks had vowed to return last week after a site manager boasted he would pay all construction workers 1 an hour if it were up to him.

As the protest assembled at 6.30am it appeared Gratts had taken the hint and shut the site down as the only souls to be seen were City of London police guarding the site entrance.

Fresh from making a nuisance of themselves at the nearby St Paul's occupation their commanding officer declared the day's gathering outside the site an illegal demonstration and threatened to arrest anyone engaging in blockades or occupations.

This was the final action in the run up to the all important national demonstration of construction workers on 9th November.

Electricians marched from the Gratts site and invaded Cannon Street tube station in order to hold a brief rally.

Speaking at the rally, Rob Williams from the National Shop Stewards Network emphasised the importance of Unite delivering on its promise of a ballot for action.

Mick Dooley from Ucatt, recently excluded from the general secretary election in that union, pledged to fight on to transform the union.

Leaving the station electricians then marched passed St Paul's cathedral. A camera crew from ITV were spotted filming.

Despite a number of visible activities over the last three months by electricians, including site invasions and a blockade of Oxford Street, there has been a virtual media blackout of the protests.

Electricians seized the chance to get some media coverage and surged up to the camera crew, about to go live on breakfast time programme GMTV.

They demanded that the station cover their protest, which after a bit of a wait (perhaps while TV producers in the studio debated whether to show the protest or not?) was aired on the programme as well as the radio.

The breaking of the media blackout was a big morale boost for sparks, allowing the day's action to end on a high note.

Neil Cafferky


Around 40 turned up to leaflet the Balfour site at Newcastle university. The mood of the sparks on the protest was buoyant.

Alongside Unite flags, there were placards, including one pointing out that Balfour Beatty's chief executive is paid 979,994 yet they are wanting to get away with paying electricians 10 an hour.

As one of the electricians pointed out, 'If they get away with this there'll be no presents for our kids this Christmas'.

Two university security guards turned up to tell us that under section 46 of the education act we were not allowed to protest and must leave - the protesters politely refused.

The security guards were asked to bring the registrar of the university to explain why they were using a company that was intent on destroying the wages, terms and conditions of construction workers, but this request was denied.

In the Balfour office above us managers could be seen taking furtive looks at the protest. On the megaphone one of the protesters told Balfour to 'Stick the cut in wages where the sun don't shine!'

As workers began to go onto the site they were leafleted and the protesting electricians explained: 'Balfour will tell you it's just these horrible sparks making trouble.

But next it'll be horrible plumbers, then horrible brickies'. The majority of those going into work were sympathetic to the protesters.

Just as we were about to leave two police arrived. They were emphatic that 'We're not here to stop you, just to facilitate a peaceful protest'.

The police listened as construction workers talked about how government spending cuts were impacting on the police.

All the protesters at Newcastle understand the need to continue the unofficial action, in order to put pressure on Unite. As one of them said: 'Even getting a few flags off the union was like pulling teeth'.

Elaine Brunskill

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