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From The Socialist newspaper, 4 April 2007

Building workers' lobby

Trade union leaders heckled over inaction

OVER 3,000 construction workers descended on London on 28 March for a trade union rally and lobby of parliament against appalling conditions in the building industry.

Neil Cafferky

Their chief demand was an end to the exploitation of migrant workers and the use of agencies and sub-contractors. Together these practices have driven down not just wages but also health and safety conditions. This is literally life and death for building workers - the industry sees an average of two deaths a week.

The rally, organised by Amicus, TGWU and UCATT unions, had general secretaries Derek Simpson, Tony Woodley and Alan Ritchie joined by Labour MPs Lindsay Hoyle and Jon Cruddas.

All three union leaders had the strategy of pressurising Labour MPs to tighten building industry regulation through a corporate manslaughter bill (making employers criminally liable if workers die due to lax health and safety conditions), legislation against employment agencies' abuses and the removal of anti-trade union laws.

Some workers were unimpressed - some jeered Derek Simpson and one electrical worker repeatedly heckled him in anger at Amicus inaction in his workplace. After Simpson claimed his activism gave Blair "a headache" came the cry: "The only thing you've given that lot is a box of Anadin!" Many workers agreed with his views.

Lindsay Hoyle MP claimed: "This is a trade union government", despite speaker after speaker detailing how New Labour governments have frustrated attempts to pass legislation to regulate the building industry.

Tony Woodley said Hazel Blears, a TGWU member, told him by text message that she could not support regulation because she had to balance protection for workers with the employers' need for flexibility!

Experience shows that lobbying MPs is not enough. The best way to win reforms and maintain conditions is through a strong trade union presence on the building sites that is prepared to take industrial action to defend its members.

This is a closed book to the big union leaders, who do not want to diminish their "influence" on a Labour government by calling national strike action. However workers' patience is wearing thin.

The Socialist Party's call for a united struggle to end exploitation and break the link with the Labour Party received an enthusiastic response from workers. 50 copies of the socialist were sold.

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In The Socialist 4 April 2007:

Children suffer in low pay Britain


Socialist Party editorial

Iran - Sailors fall victim to imperialist policies


Socialist Party news and analysis

Brown's pension robbery

Blair: No solutions to crime or crowded prisons

Waltham Forest protest - more memorable than Prince Charles!

Commemorating the abolition of the slave trade


Socialist Party reviews

One Life: Ricky Tomlinson

In The Line of Fire

Days of Glory


Education

Take national action to defend education

Labour's market policies damage education

Privilege and privation in our schools

NUS leadership abandon fees fight


PCS takes industrial action

London strikers close passport office

PCS members take industrial action

Anger on Newport picket line

Upbeat London rally


Campaign for a New Workers Party

How to stop the BNP: Build a political alternative

Campaign for a New Workers' Party


Socialist Party NHS campaign

Ammanford home care workers march

Frustration at demo delay

We shall not be moved!


Asylum

Save Sadiq Abakar

Leicester protesters challenge Home Office


Workplace news and analysis

Trade union leaders heckled over inaction

Action needed as Ford bosses close Leamington plant

Celebs fail to save Burberry

Greenwich: "We've got to strike"

Burslem postal workers strike again


Northern Ireland

British government and local parties retreat on water charges

We Won't Pay Campaign


 

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