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Wembley Workers - A Victory For The Trade Unions
THE 240 construction workers sacked and locked out by their employers, FastTrack-/Hollandia, on the new Wembley stadium site, have won a major victory. After being locked out for four weeks since refusing to accept imposed changes to their working conditions all the workers have been reinstated, completely winning everything they had stood out for.
The workers have started to return to work in phases and all will return within the next two weeks. Four union stewards are back on site to ensure management stick to the terms of the national Blue Book Agreement - the agreed terms and conditions for the industry, which was the basis for the dispute being settled.
The workers, members of the GMB and Amicus unions, have also won agreement that they only have to work 38 hours a week; any overtime can only be carried out by agreement rather than it being imposed. FastTrack/Hollandia - the subcontractor who employed the men - had imposed weekend working and overtime after taking them on from their previous employer, Cleveland Bridge. Cleveland Bridge had been removed from the job by Multiplex, the company with overall responsibility for building the new stadium.
The only outstanding issue the workers want redressed is the issue of financial compensation for the period they were locked out by their employer. This has been referred to a tribunal.
A steward told the socialist: "There is still a lot of anger at the way we have been treated but we are all happy at this result. This is a major victory for the trade union movement. We have had other trade unionists, who have supported us during the dispute, phoning us up to congratulate us."
Socialist Party members had been instrumental - along with other trade unionists - in raising thousands of pounds for the locked-out workers. A union official involved in the dispute said that he wanted to thank the Socialist Party and the socialist for all its help during the dispute.
The news of the workers' tremendous victory was greeted with a huge ovation at the TUC, which the workers had lobbied earlier in the week. Their determined stand will give inspiration to workers everywhere that bosses who ride roughshod over workers' conditions can be challenged and defeated.
Attempts to bring in scab labour from Holland failed when the Dutch workers refused to cross picket lines and take on the work. Unfortunately, a full-time official of one of the unions in the dispute - Harry Cowap of engineering union Amicus - failed to deliver such solidarity.
Over 100 locked-out Amicus members organised a lobby of their union national executive on 7 September to complain about Cowap "misrepresenting them" and alleged that he had escorted scab workers across picket lines and had spoken at meetings with management to encourage replacement erectors to cross picket lines.
After the protest Cowap was removed from the negotiations but Amicus still refused to officially back the dispute, even though the GMB had already made it an official dispute and GMB general secretary Kevin Curran had visited the picket line.
In The Socialist 25 September 2004:
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