Socialist Worker

Wrong target at Staythorpe construction protests

Issue No. 2140

The battle over jobs in construction and the direction of the fight is continuing.

There have been a number of protests over the last week by workers at the Staythorpe construction site near Newark in Nottinghamshire.

Over 200 people demonstrated on Tuesday of this week. They were joined by Derek Simpson, the joint general secretary of Unite.

The protest targeted Spanish subcontractors of Alstom, the site’s main building firm.

Unions are demanding that British workers get a share of 850 skilled jobs at the site, most of which are currently held by Spanish and Polish workers.

Four union activists had their contracts finished on the Staythorpe site. Activists say this is because they have been supporting the protests outside the plant.

Some 80 workers also protested at the construction site on the Isle of Grain in Kent over the same issue on Tuesday.

GMB union general secretary Paul Kenny has called a meeting for construction reps with the intention of moving to a national ballot for action.

The use of the “British Jobs for British Workers” slogan, which was adopted by Gordon Brown in 2007, means the attempt to fight for the national agreement and against subcontractors undercutting wages is getting lost.

Instead, the anger behind the dispute is being narrowed into the question of the number of foreign workers on sites.

Some protesters at Staythorpe on Tuesday chanted, “Foreigners out.”

Unions should not be arguing for quotas for British workers. The 40 percent of the two million building workers who are falsely defined as “self-employed” need direct employment.

Attacking “foreign workers” is doing nothing to help them. The unions should be fighting for unity against the bosses.

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Article information

Tue 24 Feb 2009, 18:21 GMT
Issue No. 2140
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