Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/1122/32081
From The Socialist newspaper, 24 February 2021
Hinkley Point electricians fight 'deskilling'
'All power to the Sparks' - Electrician construction workers: protest at Cannon Street, London 2012, photo Paul Mattsson (Click to enlarge)
Rob Williams, National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN) chair
Rank-and-file construction electricians have launched a struggle against what they see as 'multi-skilling' by bosses at the massive Hinkley Point site in Somerset to build a nuclear power station, estimated to cost £22.5 billion.
At an emergency Zoom meeting on 20 February, which saw many workers unable to attend because of a limit on numbers, Unite executive council members Frank Morris and Tony Seaman reported that an agreement to employ about 500 electrical apprentices had been reneged on and, instead, a training course for 'support operatives' is being put on. This would mean lower-paid, unskilled workers being employed instead of skilled electricians.
The meeting, echoing the Unite electrical and mechanical combine committee, is demanding that Unite construction officers say if they knew about this course and called on the national leadership of the union to oppose this move by the bosses and give a lead to the campaign.
But the 'sparks', as the electricians became known when they defeated the Besna contract in 2011-12, a previous attempt to deskill the trade which would have seen pay cuts of up to 35%, have a record of not waiting for the union officials. Then, a six-month struggle of walkouts, stoppages and protests forced the union to back the campaign, leading to an official ballot, which forced the bosses back.
But the employers are back, looking again to make workers' pay to protect and increase their profits. Workers know that any breaking of national agreements at Hinkley Point would be rolled out nationally.
The meeting agreed to launch a national fight, focused on Hinkley Point but ready to take on the construction bosses everywhere. I gave solidarity greetings from the NSSN and reported similar attacks on workers in many sectors, including 'fire and rehire' which has seen workers strike from British Airways to British Gas, and an increasing number of companies.
Solidarity to the sparks!
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In The Socialist 24 February 2021:
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Johnson's 'road map' for schools: Act together to protect safety
Vaccine algorithm can't solve capitalist inequality
Garment workers and Covid: Dying for less than minimum wage
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Starmer's speech a return to New Labour
Justice for Moyied Bashir
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Social care: End privatisation and let workers decide how it's run
Lessons from history
How militant trade unionism defeated the 1971 Industrial Relations Act
Usdaw elections - right makes gains but Broad Left builds
HMRC: Divisive pay deal leads to expulsions
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"I'm here to fight for the future education of children in Hackney"
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GMB members continue fight against 'fire and rehire' in British Gas
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Nigeria: Abbey Trotsky on trial for assisting workers' struggle
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Film Review: The White Tiger
Tories admit guilt for asylum seeker neglect
Tories target universities in free speech shakedown
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