Building workers fight for real union representation

Construction workers from across the north-west are demonstrating at Whiston Hospital on 11 January. While industry bosses turn the screws on all trades, certain trade union officials seem keener on helping the employers than helping workers. From 10am workers will be demanding the removal of such an official.

Hugh Caffrey, Manchester

This appointed individual, Amicus convenor for NG Baileys, is reported to have ‘outed’ an EPIU activist to the employers, who then transferred him off-site. Workers demand the convenor’s removal and replacement with a seasoned activist, preferably elected on-site.

Unite-EPIU activist Colin Trousdale told the socialist: “This has shades of the Manchester Royal Infirmary site where three elected workplace reps have been locked out for nearly two years due to similar goings on.

“In my own case I have been subjected to two ‘off-the-record’ chats with the project supervisor and cautioned that my continued employment with the company may well depend upon me curtailing my trade union activities. The subject matter of the second chat were things that I only ever raised at the Amicus Manchester central branch meeting!”

Stooge convenors must go. The right of election and recall must apply to all representatives and officials throughout the construction unions. Before Unite merged, Amicus members had won the right to elect officials. When this was lost through the union merger, the socialist warned that struggle would be needed to win it across the new union.

A series of demonstrations for direct employment of construction workers have been called by the Amicus section. But if the Unite leadership is serious about winning direct employment, they should plan a campaign of industrial action to achieve it. Mobilising union members on a fighting programme could reach out to the unorganised, including migrant workers, and rebuild trade unionism across the industry. The following demands would be a start:

  • No more sweet-heart deals and company unionism. No more deskilling, below-inflation pay awards or dodging of Major Project status.
  • For the right of recall and election of all officials. Any activist ‘parachuted in’ should be approved by workers on-site.
  • No to the blacklist. Full union backing to all victims of the blacklist.
  • No to corporate tax evasion and non-payment of National Insurance and holiday pay. Union action to expose law-breaking companies and win unpaid wages.
  • No to forced ‘self-employment’. For a campaign of mass industrial action to end agencies and sub-contractors ripping-off workers. For the unconditional right to direct employment.
  • No to low pay. Scrap the multi-year real-terms pay cuts. Fight for a one-year above-inflation pay claim. Link direct employment to union rates of pay.
  • No more deaths on site. Defence of health and safety backed by industrial action. Fight for roving safety reps and the punishment of murdering bosses.
  • No more money to New Labour! This bosses’ party doesn’t deserve another penny after watering down the corporate killing laws and blocking temporary workers’ rights.
  • For independent workers’ political representation to fight for the millions not the millionaires.