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From The Socialist newspaper, 8 October 2014

M25 maintenance workers protest over terms and conditions

M25 maintenance workers protested on 8 October outside Balfour Beatty offices in central London against attacks on terms and conditions. Unite's Malcolm Bonett explains the situation

Connect Plus Services (CPS) is five years into a lucrative 30-year contract for maintaining the motorway network on the M25 Orbital.

Some operatives maintain vehicles at the Dartford Depot and others carry out gritting in winter, trimming back the verges and carriageway improvements.

There is an Incident Support Unit (ISU) which clears up the damage following accidents. This is a particularly difficult task where ISU workers are exposed to fatalities, body parts and blood stained debris.

Outsourced

Originally, these workers were on county council terms and conditions around the network, which was tendered out to Carillion.

Connect Plus Services were then awarded the contract. Some of the work has been sub-contracted out to firms including Balfour Beatty.

Three years ago, in the BESNA terms and conditions dispute, electricians nationally were threatened with pay cuts of up to 35%. At that point, firms including Balfour Beatty caved in after activists and Unite got behind the campaign.

The same principle applies here. Why should it be the workers out there in all conditions day and night, being exposed to moving traffic, who are now having their terms and conditions eroded?

It appears no coincidence to me that Balfour Beatty has recently announced shareholder losses. It's trying to recoup money from those hardworking operatives at the sharp end.

Balfour Beatty contracts are inferior to ones that the original council employees have.

Carillion TUPE (transferred) contracts have better terms and conditions, therefore the CPS strategy with a two-tier workforce is to harmonise down.

Only way is up

Unite's position is to harmonise up and make sure all operatives on the network get sick pay from day one.

CPS has no recognition agreement with Unite. However, we are determined that Unite's voice will be heard and we could disrupt the network.

CPS is trying to drive these proposals through an 'employee forum' and sideline the unions.

The proposals mean a loss of four days' holiday and a horrendous shift pattern of four nights on, four nights off followed by four days on, four days off.

The unions want a 13-week shift pattern for work/life balance.

Unite's consultative ballot closed with a 96% vote in favour of a work to rule and selective strike action to win this issue. The next stage will be a full industrial action ballot.

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In The Socialist 8 October 2014:


Socialist Party news and analysis

We need ideas to change the world

NHS - The black hole

UK - A tax haven for the super-rich

Them & Us


International socialist news and analysis

South Africa: "A workers' party must emerge"

Middle East: Repel IS and Western imperialism

Coordinated attacks on Hong Kong movement

Ebola crisis: Consequence of profit before health

Stop corporate plunder of Bangladesh energy


Socialist Party workplace news

We can beat the pay freeze!

Public sector: why we have to strike

RMT tube workers join October action

Teachers: Pay rise? What pay rise?

Support Care UK day of action

Sheffield: Green workers red with anger

M25 maintenance workers protest


Socialist Party reports and campaigns

Training tomorrow's trade union militants

Finance to fight for the future

School students organise disabled rights meeting

Ice cream, you scream, we all scream for 10 now!


Readers' comments

Exhaustion from buzzer to buzzer

Bedroom Tax: Still making tenants' lives hell

Scotland: Workers need a new mass party

Correction: Labour's private health links are worse!

Thatcher's enemies within


Obituary

Andrew Price: Fighter, teacher, party campaigner


 

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