Construction workers’ dispute: National action needed

Construction workers’ dispute: National action needed

Updated 12 March 2009 – note appended

Construction workers are organising weekly protests at Staythorpe power station near Newark. They are protesting against Alstom’s exclusion of UK labour from jobs on the site.

Alistair Tice

But the number of protesters is falling, with about 150 pickets last Wednesday. This is because the delegations sent by sites have been penned in by police and are unable to approach the workers being bussed in. They are no longer getting any media coverage. Even the regional union official admitted that the strategy was not working but had no alternative other than to wait for the union to organise a march in London.

So Staythorpe pickets will be disappointed to learn that this week’s NAECI (the national agreement covering those construction workers) stewards’ meeting in Eastbourne decided against setting an early date for such a midweek march on parliament and Alstom’s head office. Such a march could have acted as the catalyst for a one-day strike by sites around the country as advocated by Socialist Party supporters.

Instead, it is to be left until after two rounds of union negotiations with the employers’ organisation on 11 March and 8 April, to decide what action, if any, to take. How much more pressure could we have put on the bosses if thousands of construction workers marched on parliament as part of a one-day national strike?

A fighting mood was generated by the unofficial strikes that swept through 22 sites in support of workers at the Lindsey oil refinery site (LOR) six weeks ago.

This is now in danger of being dissipated if the union officials keep putting off national action. The recall shop stewards’ network meeting planned in Sheffield on Saturday 14 March must decide whether it has or can build the authority to call unofficial action.

Such action might happen anyway as blacklisted union activists, like Steve Acheson and John McEwan fight to get their jobs back.

John was unfairly dismissed by Alstom at LOR in 2003 after raising health and safety issues. A two-day strike won John’s reinstatement and improved health and safety and manning levels. But last May, oil multinational Total stopped construction company Shaw from employing John on LOR.

So one of the extra demands of the LOR strike was that John be re-employed on that site. He had an interview on 28 February for one of the new jobs gained by the strike but his union official has since been told that John will never be employed at LOR. Supposedly the management did not like John’s “body language” at the interview!

Construction workers will not tolerate the continued blacklisting of union activists. They are sure to take action if John is not immediately employed.

Stop press 12 March 2009

John McEwan was told yesterday that he had a job starting this morning.