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From The Socialist newspaper, 21 March 2012

Construction workers demand better pay and conditions

Around 70 rank and file construction workers met in Manchester on 17 March to discuss the victory against the bosses' attempt to impose Besna contracts - cutting wages by up to 35%. There was a determination that any trace of Besna must be stamped out.

In the battle against Besna rank and file construction workers have led the struggle and put pressure on Unite to eventually put its weight behind the campaign.

The bosses and Unite have signed a joint statement advocating a 'modernisation' of the JIB national agreement. But the bosses will see this as an opportunity to get most of what they were planning in the first place.

The sparks and other construction workers have produced massive profits for Besna firms like Balfour Beatty and they rightly want improvements in their pay, terms and conditions not workplace 'austerity measures'.

Therefore, the sparks are determined that there will be no Besna mark 2 and why it's vital that the rank and file committees continue to ensure that a check can be kept on union officials participating in talks.

Unite have been forced by the campaign to bring the rank and file into the negotiations with seven on the union-side committee alongside seven Unite stewards.

Basis for talks

The 20 demands agreed at the rank and file meeting in London on 7 March to take to the union-side meeting as the basis for any talks were also discussed and agreed.

The need to step up the fight against blacklisting and agency working was explained by Steve Acheson from the platform. Everyone in the room supported this.

Dave Walsh, Socialist Party member and Unite plasterers' branch secretary from Liverpool, pointed out that this was an ideal time to recruit new members and organise the sites. Because of the transient nature of the industry a continuous recruitment campaign was necessary. Dave offered to organise a Liverpool trades council meeting to help build support.

Andy Bentley, Socialist Party member, National Shop Stewards Network Staffordshire organiser and Unite construction sector member, said: "We have to make it quite clear to the bosses that the longer they drag out the talks or muck about agreeing to the demands, then the stronger and more organised we will become on the sites with such a campaign".

A call was made at the end of the meeting for support to be given to Steve Acheson's long running campaign against blacklisting by visiting his regular protests. It was also agreed to meet again in four weeks.

Protests will continue outside Manchester central library every Wednesday to call on the Labour council to pressure its main electrical contractor, one of the 'Dirty 7' - NG Baileys, to stop blacklisting.

Abolish the blacklist!

Blacklisted construction worker Steve Acheson told the Socialist:

"On our banner it quotes John McDonnell MP, 'construction blacklist: one of the worst cases of human rights abuse ever in the UK'. The labour movement has got to start tackling blacklisting, which we now know involved the security services, police and union officials.

Blacklisting continues in the absence of real trade union involvement. I've spent ten years in the last 12 blacklisted and out of work, deliberately exiled for no other crime than raising health and safety concerns in the second-most dangerous industry in the country. Quite rightly, every form of discrimination is abhorrent to a civilised society. Why then do we tolerate this abuse of human rights?"

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In The Socialist 21 March 2012:

Fighting the cuts

Tell the Con-Dem government: NO CUTS!

Prepare for future struggle - build the trade union left

Build a strategy to win on pensions

Stop the NHS sell-off - National demo now!

Stroud: Labour lets NHS down again

Socialist Party features

Capitalism isn't working: Time to fight for socialist change

Fight or privatise: A tale of two councils

Socialist Party news and analysis

Budget: far from 'all in it together'

Student walkout: Socialist Students show what could have been

No to workfare - fight for a genuine alternative

Defend the right to protest!

Youth demand future at Dundee sham summit

Them & Us

Socialist Party workplace news

MMP packaging: workers still locked out

Swindon hospital workers fight bullying

Construction workers demand better pay and conditions

Workplace news in brief

International socialist news and analysis

The 'Kony 2012' phenomena

Sri Lanka's Killing Fields: War Crimes Unpunished

Reviews and readers' comments

Smear campaign on Hillsborough?

Single and video: ill Manors by Plan B


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