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Posted on 11 February 2009 at 0:00 GMT

Motherwell Bridge bosses declare war on striking workers

The fight to save jobs and stop the race to the bottom in the construction engineering industry intensified today as 80 striking workers at Staythorpe power station were sacked on the spot by Motherwell Bridge, a sub contractor on the Alstom run site, for refusing to cross picket lines.

Neil Cafferky, London Socialist Party

The day had begun with a return of flying pickets as 800 workers from around the country descended on Newark, Nottinghamshire, to protest against the unfair employment practices of Alstom.

1000 job applications have been made by British based labour to Alstom and as of the time of writing not one job interview has been offered to them. Alstom have now announced that 250 jobs will be to a sub contracting firm that will bring in labour from Poland.

Initially the picketers were penned in behind barriers. However as the flow of scabs on to the site continued the workers indignation increased until the barriers were thrust aside and the main entrance blockaded. At this point scores of police were deployed to keep back picketers from blockading a secondary road leading on to the sites.

Socialist Party members lending support to the picket spoke to many of the workers about what the Lindsey strike had achieved and what the next step in the campaign should be.

Workers were scathing about the anti trade union laws and the accusations that the strike was racist. Said one striker, fresh from victory at the Lindsey dispute, "They (the anti-trade union laws) didn't stop us because we came out in force around the country, as one. We got called racists but there was nothing racist about it."

Workers were clear that this was only the beginning of a nationwide battle throughout the industry. When the idea of a national one day stoppage on construction workers and a march on Parliament was put to a striker his response was; "We've all been gunning for that for a long time. It's got to be on Gordon Brown's doorstep. Even the lads at Longannet, they came out and that's Brown's own constituency. They've got the same problem up in Scotland that we have in England. Wales have got the same problem, Ireland's got the same problem, Italy and Spain have as well. It's across Europe. I think if we all joined as one, all the construction workers around the world. That would make a big dent."

By 9:00 AM a general meeting of the picket was called at the site gates. Protestors listened grimly as Staythorpe stewards announced that 80 workers on the site had been sacked by Motherwell Bridge. This came only a day after Motherwell Bridge had promised stewards that union members who refused to cross picket lines would not be victimised. The sackings were met by vehement calls from many workers for an official national strike in the industry.

At this point the picketers marched to the Jobs Centre in Newark town. In a bizarre twist the 250 jobs on site are advertised in the office windows! A local journalist then asked workers to pose for a picture in front of the Job Centre window with the Union Jack. A Socialist Party supporter objected to this saying the Union Jack was not the flag of the picketers and instead that a UNITE banner should be used. This lead to some discussion between workers so in the end a picture was be taken with workers holding a copy of the Socialist!

The day's events were brought to a close with a speech by Socialist Party member Keith Gibson in the Jobs Centre car park. In a rousing speech, available on the Socialist Party website, he called for workers to return next Wednesday in greater numbers to keep the pressure up on Alstom and fight for the jobs of the 80 victimised workers. Negotiations are still ongoing between stewards and Motherwell Bridge with a view to defeating this attack but at the time of writing these workers remain out of a job.

It is now becoming clear that the Lindsey strike was only the opening clash in an ongoing and serious battle between workers and bosses in the construction industry. United action won the first round for the workers but in the absence of a general offensive across the industry against the use of non union migrant labour to undermine wages and conditions, this victory will only be temporary.

All out to support the sacked Staythorpe workers!
For a one day national strike and a march on Parliament!

The sub-contracting maze:

Alstom Power has been contracted by RWE nPower to build a new power station at Staythorpe power station.

Alstom Power in turn has sub contracted out the building of different parts of the job to companies such as Motherwell Bridge but also Spanish firms Montpressa and FMM. These companies are just a sample of the many different sub-contracting firms operating on site in addition to labour directly employed by Alstom itself.

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