Socialist Worker

What next for construction strikes?

Issue No. 2153

There is the possibility of more unofficial action on construction sites in early June.

There is also growing pressure for a national strike against the use of blacklists and against wage-cutting in construction.

There is much frustration on construction sites over the lack of action from the top of the unions. Unions will meet employers on 3 June, followed by a shop stewards’ meeting two days later.

An official national construction strike could be a major step forward.

But there must be a debate about what the demands of such a strike are.

Workers want a substantial pay increase but the bosses have indicated any rise must be paid for by giving up breaks.

Workers also want tighter auditing of contracts to ensure agreed pay rates are not being undercut.

Along with the question of subcontracting and blacklists, these are important issues to unite behind.

But unions’ demands that local or British workers should have priority for jobs are far more problematic.

The Supplementary Project Agreement is an appendix to the “blue book” national agreement calling for construction companies to source locally available construction workers. The unions want this agreement to be binding nationally.

Of course many workers are sick of being blacklisted at local sites and forced to travel long distances to find work.

But we should not give concessions to the idea that the solution for construction workers is to prioritise “local” workers. As we saw last week this can pit workers against each other and result in forcing foreign workers out.

We should fight to bring workers together into the unions—to defend conditions and jobs for all.

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