Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/577/7213
Olympics site demo 6 May
Olympics: Defend jobs, pay and conditions
The London and South East construction branch of Unite have organised a protest at the Olympic construction site in east London on 6 May.
The protest is to ensure that all workers on the Olympic site are on trade union-negotiated terms and conditions.
The bosses at this and other major construction sites are constantly trying to undermine these agreements and employ people on much lower rates and worse working conditions.
The strike at the Lindsey oil refinery site earlier this year, supported by construction workers on many other sites, proved that this race to the bottom can be stopped and pay and working conditions can be protected.
Keith Gibson speaking at meeting on lessons of the Lindsey oil refinery strike, photo Paul Mattsson
Ever since the Lindsey oil refinery (LOR) strike supported by walk-outs across 22 other construction sites, Socialist Party supporters have been calling for a one day industry-wide national stoppage and march on parliament. Hats off to the London lads for organising this protest.
Keith Gibson, LOR
Our action is to force the employers to include all engineering construction sites and jobs under the NAECI national agreement. And to force the government to withdraw from or amend the EU directives and court rulings that legalise the bosses' exploitation of cheap foreign non-union labour to the exclusion of local unionised workers.
Our trade union leaders have been dragging their feet for months, in fact for years. They use the Tory anti-trade union laws, which New Labour have kept, as an excuse for inaction. Yet these laws were swept away by the unofficial strikes three months ago. We must demand that our unions call an official ballot for national strike action, including workers on repair and maintenance. If the employers go to court for an injunction, we should defy the unjust ruling-class laws.
But we can't wait any longer for our so-called leaders. LOR, BP Dimlington, and other sites are taking strike action to support the demonstration on 6 May. This demo must be the starting point for an industry-wide one day strike. We need to build an unofficial shop stewards' network across all the sites to co-ordinate future action.
Trade unions need to increase efforts to unionise foreign workers like at Grain and Staythorpe which have exposed subcontractors paying wages and conditions outside the national agreement. Ideally we want, with construction trade unions on the continent, to force a Europe-wide agreement that stops this wage-cutting 'race to the bottom'.
But New Labour has proved it's a bosses' government and the EU is a bosses' Europe. Workers need a political alternative. 200 construction workers on Staythorpe pickets have signed petitions to stop our unions funding Labour and in favour of a new workers' party. That's why myself, John McEwan and others are standing as candidates for the RMT union-led left alternative in the European elections, No2EU-Yes to Democracy.
The Socialist spoke to Owen Morris, one of the South East construction worker activists who called for the demonstration at the Olympic site.
"Back in March, the London and South East activists' meeting called for this demonstration. We picked the Olympics site because after the LOR and wildcat strikes, there's been a media black out and this is the most high profile job in the world.
It was sold to East Londoners on the grounds of regenerating the local economy, yet unemployed local labour is being excluded and only a handful of apprenticeships have begun.
Cheap labour is being imported outside of national industry agreements. This protest is not against foreign workers, we welcome them, but not as slave labour being paid no more than the minimum wage. The government just want to cut costs by keeping the wage bill down. We want a level playing field, and that's got to be levelling up to our rates, not this 'race to the bottom'.
We've had the bare minimum support from the union officials. It's too much of a hot potato for them. We think Gordon Brown told the unions not to embarrass him on his prestige project. So we've had to organise it ourselves, but the pressure from the lads has forced them to stop ignoring us and put buses on.
After 6 May, we need to keep up the protests at Staythorpe and Grain, and if need be more national action till we win.
This country needs change. We need someone to defend the rights of working people. The New Labour Party has lost trace of all its roots, now they're just conservatives with a red tie on."
In The Socialist 29 April 2009:
Socialist Party election campaign
Socialist Party workplace news
Socialist Party news and analysis
International socialist news and analysis