Romford sparks victory over ‘umbrella’ scheme

Update on 2.9.14:

All protests have been called off today at Romford and around the country because victory has been achieved! The workers have been offered direct employment and those sacked will be reinstated. However the workers are still fighting for their newly-elected union stewards to be recognised by the company.

Construction walkout in Romford following sackings of newly elected union reps

At a Romford rail station site in east London last week, 15 agency construction workers who were suffering being paid via the umbrella company scam called a Unite official to the site. They were seeking help in putting forward their demand that they be employed directly by the building services contractor company T. Clarke.

In a meeting between Unite reps and Clarke’s management it was agreed that Clarke would consider the request for the 15 to be directly employed.

A Unite steward and deputy steward were elected by the workers. However on Friday morning these two stewards and one other worker were sacked by Clarke.

In response to this blatant attack on union organising, the workers walked off the job and ‘cabined up’. Unite met with Clarke again, but had no progress in getting the sackings withdrawn.

On Monday morning (1st September) a protest took place outside the site from 6.30am: see the NSSN video below.

Text of Socialist Party leaflet, 1.9.14:

Reinstate Tommy Clarke stewards

End the ‘umbrella company’ scam

Today’s protests at Tommy Clarke’s office are a new turn in the battle against ‘umbrella companies’ in the building trade. Events have moved quickly since sparks on the Volker Fitzgerald site in Romford first began organising.

On Wednesday Unite the union were called to the site by 15 electricians ’employed’ by umbrella company First Stage Recruitment.

The sparks demanded direct employment by Tommy Clarke, the electrical contractor on site. They elected two stewards to represent them in negotiations with the employers.

On Friday the two stewards were laid off. By a strange coincidence there was no more work for them right after they were elected! The electricians on site don’t believe in coincidences. They refused to go into work that day.

If Tommy Clarke thought the protest would fizzle out over the weekend they were mistaken as the morning shift was greeted by a mass picket of sparks and supporters. The 15 again refused to go into work and were joined by directly employed electricians from Tommy Clarke. No deliveries were made to the site.

The protests today at Tommy Clarke’s offices around the country are delivering the message that the sparks’ demand cannot be ignored.

They want the stewards reinstated, direct employment with the contractor, proper expenses and holiday pay.

Sparks want nothing to do with umbrella companies, a scam by the contractors to dump payment of PAYE and National Insurance on to the worker. They are organising to get direct employment.

Contractors like Tommy Clarke should be clear that victimising reps to stop this organising will be met with more pickets on the sites and more protests at their offices.

This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 1 September 2014 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.