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Construction boom - workers organise
AS LIVERPOOL prepares to be "Capital of Culture" in 2008, construction on Merseyside booms to the tune of £3 billion. The Paradise Street site alone is worth £750,000 and when completed will be the largest shopping mall in Western Europe. Not that workers get any benefits - in fact, they're suffering for it!
Workers have to fight for their rights from contractors like Laing O'Rourke. That's why on 5 January, construction workers rallied on Paradise Street demanding union rights and conditions. Most construction unions were represented, with workers from Wirral, Widnes, Wigan, Runcorn, Manchester and Liverpool.
Amicus senior officials talked about regulating agencies and tackling the issue of migrant labour by demanding equal pay. To loud applause, a local TGWU activist called for a 10,000-strong demo within the next few months when construction really gets underway.
The words of Amicus officials should be matched by action, as Graham Bowker from TGWU/EPIU (electricians) explained: "The meaning and feeling of today's action is brilliant, but the 100-odd turnout are of an age who understand trade unions. People here have got to go out and recruit, organise and educate younger workers. What the officials said is good, that they're demanding direct labour not agencies and sub-contractors. But it's the officials who sign the agreements with the companies allowing agencies! Direct labour should be in the contract when the unions sign up.
"The same goes for this demo in two months' time: it's down to the officials of all construction unions to get together and organise it properly with more publicity than today's event."
Workers across the construction industry are facing similar issues. Late last year a UK Rank and File Construction Workers meeting in London brought together workers from across the building trades and unions. Tony Jones, TGWU/EPIU, attended: "The meeting set up a UK Rank and File Construction Workers' Committee, principally to deal with the forthcoming Olympic Games project, as well as other issues.
"The four construction unions represented there are writing to Barry Camfield, TGWU official and joint union rep on the Olympic Development Authority which manages the project. We want a meeting with him to put forward our points: election (not appointment) of stewards and health and safety reps, direct employment and national rates of pay, sick leave, travel and pensions.
"We want £20 an hour for a 35-hour week, plus various health and safety issues to be resolved.
"At the same time, we're calling on all rank and file construction workers to get involved. We've got another national meeting, in Manchester on Saturday 17 February and we'd urge all workers to come along."
In The Socialist 11 January 2007:
Socialist Party news and analysis
Violence against women
Socialist Party review
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party workplace news