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Sacked electricians win tribunal ruling
TONY JONES, TGWU health and safety rep and fellow workers Steve Acheson and Graham Bowker, sacked from the Manchester Royal Infirmary site, have won their tribunal cases. The ruling is that they were: "Unfairly selected for redundancy because of trade union membership and activities".
Hugh Caffrey, Manchester
After 45 weeks locked out and blacklisted by the construction industry, this is a landmark victory in the battle against anti-union bosses. In desperation, the employers at the tribunal hired one of the highest-paid QCs in the country - best-known for libel cases representing Wayne Rooney against The Sun and for Balfour Beatty after the Hatfield rail disaster, getting the compensation bill slashed by £millions. Still the employers lost their case.
Steve Acheson, sacked convenor and EPIU contracting branch secretary, explained to me: "This victory is important for the trade union movement and we dedicate it to the trade union movement. We were on [local TV station] Channel M last night about our tribunal. On the programme we were able to explain to any young workers watching that we could maintain this dispute because of union support. The praise for all those, especially the unions, who've supported us is deserved because we wouldn't be here without it.
"This victory vindicates our action, even the courts of England are supporting us! It's a half-way victory though because we want reinstatement. Getting our jobs back is all this has ever been about. We said it at the court tribunal – either we get reinstated or meaningful employment elsewhere in the JIB-regulated industry, or we're staying here! The companies picked this confrontation – if they want us outside their gates for the next four years that's their decision!
"In my last three jobs in the Joint Industry Board (JIB) electrical industry, I've been unfairly dismissed from all three of them [for union membership and activity] and proved that at three tribunals.
"It's unique. The bosses have blacklisted us because they want to refuse holiday pay, sack workers without any reason when and where they want and cow the workforce into submission.
"Conscious trade unionists will never allow the bosses to do that and that's why we're being removed from the sites because they know we'll organise and tell the lads it's wrong to be treated like that. All other forms of discrimination are abhorrent to a civilised society and contradict our human rights. So why is discrimination against trade unions still allowed?
"On 28 March we're going to the Amicus-organised lobby of parliament 'Fighting for Direct Employment'. It goes to the heart of our dispute.
"Rule 17 of the JIB national working rules is quite specific – no matter how short-term the job, JIB companies must offer the workers direct employment. This is binding on JIB employers and employees. It was the central issue at my last three tribunals because it's binding. But to get round it the bosses use agencies and subcontractors, to stop workers getting employee status so they're not entitled to rights about unfair dismissal and so on.
"Direct employment is our right. But the lads don't ask for it because they know they'll be sacked. As long as companies think they've got a free hand they'll keep attacking. They're like a bully that keeps coming back to torment until the victim stands up. 'Dignity at work' certainly doesn't exist in the construction industry! So the crux of Rule 17, direct employment and this lobby is organising ourselves. When Channel M came down to interview us, they opened by asking 'Is the trade union movement dead and buried from the 1980s like we're led to believe?' Here's three lads who prove it's not.' You can't add much to that!"
The sacked electricians rely on the support of trade unionists and people like you. By the time of the remedy hearing in May, they'll have been locked out with no work for at least 12 months.
Help maintain the campaign until they're reinstated. For info and donations see www.leftunity.org.uk
In The Socialist 30 March 2007:
Socialist Party NHS campaign
What we think
Socialist Party news and analysis
Socialist Party election campaign
Socialist Party feature
Northern Ireland agreement
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party workplace news