Elaine Brunskill, North East Socialist Party
Solidarity to rank-and-file electricians who have been sacked because they downed tools at Amazon’s warehouse, under construction at Follingsby Park, Gateshead.
The sparks’ walk-out was reporedly against the highly dangerous practice by the electrical contractor SIS Systems of using labourers to connect up electrical work. The sparks are resolute they cannot tolerate this approach. As one picket explained: “We’re told if we see something unsafe stop the job, but if you stop the job, they sack you.”
There was seething anger that lives were being put at risk for the sake of profit. One spark pointed out: “It’s not water we’re messing about with, its electricity. If the work isn’t done correctly it can cause fires and kill people.” Also, that there was anger that the contractor is prepared to risk lives for the sake of a few pounds per hour – the difference between the pay of an electrician who has been through an apprenticeship, and an unskilled labourer.
It’s an attempt by bosses to drive down wages and conditions.
The picket line outside Amazon’s warehouse was very peaceful. However, the police were called by site security. Many of the sacked workers were indignant that the police weren’t prepared to do anything against the contractors who were breaking health and safety rules, but were clearly there at the behest of the bosses.
SIS Systems has said that if there are any “issues of threatening behaviour, sabotage or any trouble whatsoever then nobody will be paid by SIS for the week.” By far the biggest threat is from unscrupulous SIS Systems who are contemptuous of the health and safety of workers in the warehouse.