Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/1136/32589
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 (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.
Donate to the Socialist Party
The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.
The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.
- The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
- We must be ready for the stormy events ahead and the need to arm workers' movements with a socialist programme - one which puts the health and needs of humanity before the profits of a few.
Inevitably, during the crisis we have not been able to sell the Socialist and raise funds in the ways we normally would.
We therefore urgently appeal to all our viewers to donate to our Fighting Fund.
In The Socialist 26 May 2021:
3 July day of protest - save our NHS from the Tories
Capitalism's Covid failings
Unite general secretary campaign: Statement from Sharon Graham
Unite general secretary campaign: Statement from Howard Beckett
Boycotts - what role can these play in the struggle for a Palestinian state?
Stop Israeli state terror: solidarity protests continue
Will Biden's 'green' agenda avert an impending climate change catastrophe?
Sparks force bosses to talk after blockading AWE
Save jobs, save livelihoods, save GKN Automotive - nationalise the plant!
Belarus: Lukashenko's desperate attempt to silence opposition
Colombia: General strikes continue
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
University funding reform: Fight for free, fully funded education for all
The Socialist 26 May 2021 |
Join the Socialist
| Audio | PDF | ebook
Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777
Email: [email protected]
Locate your nearest Socialist Party branch Text your name and postcode to 07761 818 206
Regional Socialist Party organisers:
Eastern: 079 8202 1969
East Mids: 077 3797 8057
London: 075 4018 9052
North East: 078 4114 4890
North West 079 5437 6096
South West: 077 5979 6478
Southern: 078 3368 1910
Wales: 077 7221 5281
West Mids: 024 7655 5620
Yorkshire: 078 0983 9793