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Posted on 13 June 2012 at 13:13 GMT

Construction walkout at Runcorn power station

Hundreds of workers on the Runcorn thermal power station construction site have protested and walked out in support of laggers on site (workers doing insulation work) demanding that more local workers are hired by one of the contractors.

While construction workers are unemployed in the locality, the company is starting workers from the north east.

This provoked an unofficial walkout on Tuesday 12 June, followed by a demonstration and mass meeting of the whole workforce on the morning of the 13th.

Unite union convenor Albie McGuigan, addressing the mass meeting, emphasised that in general the companies on site do adhere to the agreement with the unions, but equally that if the laggers call for support then support will be organised.

Steve, who works on the site, explains the issues further:

"There's six to seven hundred workers on the site here. The job's running behind already through problems with the design of the plant.

"It's written into the Supplementary Project Agreement (SPA) that they will use local labour wherever practicable.

"The majority of the firms are employing the right ratio of local labour to travelling labour, but C&D Insulation are using more travelling labour than they are locals.

"There were rumours of a protest on Monday but nothing was confirmed, and when we got to the site yesterday there was a small demonstration on the gate.

"It was a bit disjointed because all the shop stewards were at the PJC [Project Joint Council, monthly meeting between unions and employers ].

"The scaffolders decided to walk out first of all, and once they'd gone out the rest of the trades followed in solidarity.

"Protesters said yesterday that there'd be a formal picket today, and if the lads wanted to go into work yesterday then they could, and it wouldn't be looked down on.

"But as some of the lads had walked off they thought it was only fair that we all walked off site. As always, if one company gets away with it then they'll all be doing it.

"This morning has had good support, the coaches that bus the lads into the site have all stopped at the gates, and all the lads have assembled for the mass meeting."

The workforce went into work at 9am with several expressing optimism that C&D will step back into line with the SPA.

Whether this will be an immediate victory or a dispute requiring a programme of protests and walkouts remains to be seen.

But this shows once again how construction workers' fighting spirit is growing. The Socialist Party and National Shop Stewards Network will do our part to back them until they win.

Hugh Caffrey, north west Socialist Party

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