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From The Socialist newspaper, 26 May 2021

Sparks force bosses to talk after blockading AWE to stop deskilling

Reading, 26.5.21: Standing with the #Sparks blockading #AWE in fight against de-skilling #No2ESO, photo RW

Reading, 26.5.21: Standing with the #Sparks blockading #AWE in fight against de-skilling #No2ESO, photo RW   (Click to enlarge)

Rob Williams, NSSN national chair

Rank-and-file construction electricians in Unite have forced NG Bailey and Balfour Beatty to the negotiating table after stepping up their fight against deskilling.

On 26 March, they converged from all areas of the country to AWE Burghfield near Reading, which assembles nuclear warheads. NG Bailey, which has a contract there, is the main company pushing the electrical service operator (ESO) grade. This would mean opening up 70% of the work of time-served skilled construction electricians to cheaper unskilled labour.

As with the Besna dispute a decade ago, the motivation is to slash the sparks' wages and look to spread this version of 'fire and rehire' throughout the construction industry.

The sparks blockaded the main gate at AWE, pushing past the area that the police would 'allow'. The staff cars were then diverted to the other gate, where they met another group of protesting workers. Sparks on the Bailey contract were emboldened by the protests and drove round in a cavalcade, beeping their horns. Along with the sparks' blockade, this helped cause a massive tailback of traffic.

This was the fourteenth week of this struggle, but it represents a step change in the fight against deskilling. The sparks have made it clear that this and other Bailey sites are being targeted, and the full range of tactics should be used - official Unite strike ballots, protests and unofficial action. That was the strategy that defeated Besna. In the aftermath of the AWE blockade, Bailey and Balfour contacted the rank and file for talks. The sparks have postponed upcoming protests to allow these talks to take place.

But the sparks have made it clear that they aren't going away until the ESO is well and truly off the table. Balfour had already indicated that it was abandoning the ESO weeks ago but seemed to reverse this when Bailey still stood out. So the sparks won't be fooled. The protests may have been suspended but they'll be back on if the talks go nowhere.

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In The Socialist 26 May 2021:


NHS

3 July day of protest - save our NHS from the Tories


Covid-19

Capitalism's Covid failings


Unite election

Unite general secretary campaign: Statement from Sharon Graham

Unite general secretary campaign: Statement from Howard Beckett


Israel/Palestine

Boycotts - what role can these play in the struggle for a Palestinian state?

Stop Israeli state terror: solidarity protests continue


US politics

Will Biden's 'green' agenda avert an impending climate change catastrophe?


Workplace news

Sparks force bosses to talk after blockading AWE

Save jobs, save livelihoods, save GKN Automotive - nationalise the plant!

Workplace round-up


International news

Belarus: Lukashenko's desperate attempt to silence opposition

Colombia: General strikes continue


Campaigns news

Cladding danger: Protest 5 June!

Pimlico Academy protest demands elected governors

York students demand democratic control of schools

Protests against anti-protest bill

Waltham Forest byelections: Council homes not unaffordable flats

Raising Fighting Fund in Southern region

Hillsborough crimes go unpunished


Universities

University funding reform: Fight for free, fully funded education for all


 

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Related links:

Construction:

triangleStop press: Sparks walk out

triangleLondon floods: Privatisation and heavy rain are a dangerous mix

triangleGateshead: Sacked electricians reinstated

triangleProtesting in Enfield, London, in support of electricians sacked by contractor SIS Systems at Amazon's warehouse under construction at Follingsby Park, Gateshead. 21.6.21

triangleHundreds march to scrap Silvertown Tunnel project

Unite:

triangleNew openings for militant trade unionism

triangleLeeds taxi drivers and disabled passengers unite to fight station changes

triangleWorkers' politics won't come from Labour

triangleWeetabix - workers have had enough

Electricians:

triangleRank and file sparks at the Amazon construction site at Follingsby Park, Gateshead, protesting on the day before they achieved victory by being reinstated.

triangleSparks win victory!

triangleReading, 26.5.21: Standing with the #Sparks blockading #AWE in the fight against de-skilling #No2ESO. NG Bailey & Balfour Beatty must pull away from their deskilling agenda!

Besna:

triangleDeskilling protests by sparks electricians continue

triangleConstruction electricians protesting against de-skilling, outside Balfour Beatty, Canary Wharf, London, on 10.3.21. Photo by Isai Priya

Rob Williams:

triangleBexley bin workers win big gains after six-week strike

Balfour Beatty:

triangleProtests against deskilling and lower wages

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