Elaine Brunskill, South Tyne and Wear Socialist Party
There has been a victory for rank-and-file sparks at the Amazon construction site at Follingsby Park, Gateshead. Alongside victories such as the fightback against the use of Electrical Service Operatives (ESOs) at Hinkley Point nuclear power plant, this has clearly boosted the idea that if you fight you can win!
Around 40 electricians had downed tools and walked off site because of the reckless practice by electrical contractor SIS Systems of using unskilled labourers to do the work of skilled electricians.
Rather than speaking to the workers to ensure the job was safe, the unscrupulous bosses sacked the workers for highlighting safety issues. For the hapless contractors, their profits came before safety.
Amazon has bragged that around 1,300 workers will be employed at the Gateshead warehouse. Those workers deserve a safe environment to work in.
The whole matter of who takes responsibility for the sackings, safety, and so on, is a tangled web. One worker commented: “The issue is the client has appointed a contractor, who has appointed a sub-contractor, who uses an agency, who has an umbrella company!”
Rather than being cowed by the sackings, the rank-and-file sparks acted courageously, and often with humour.
The police turned up at the protest, clearly to ensure the interests of the bosses were upheld. The protest outside the plant was successively blocking deliveries and challenging those crossing the picket line. The police told them they couldn’t stand in front of the entrance to the site – so they defiantly began to walk back and forth across the entrance.
The sparks expressed gratitude to the Socialist Party for supporting them throughout their struggle, and were impressed with how the National Shop Stewards Network got their protest to a wider audience.