Socialist Worker

Construction: Deal sells struggle short

by Simon Basketter
Issue No. 2170

Shop stewards from construction unions have voted by a 25 to 20 majority to recommend that workers accept a new “Blue Book” agreement at a meeting in Manchester last Thursday.

But it’s well short of what workers can win if they follow up the magnificent wave of strikes earlier this year.

Instead of swallowing the deal, the trade unions should have implemented the big vote for strikes in the official ballot held at seven major sites.

The pay deal on offer is:

  • A “rise” of just 2 percent – and not until January 2010. In effect that means pay will fall behind inflation and will be worth less.
  • A “rise” equal to the increase in the Retail Price Index (RPI), subject to minimum of 0.1 percent. At present RPI is a negative so workers are likely to end up with the fall back position of the 1 percent increase.

On vacancies and transparency of contracts, the employers have made some concessions.

But it’s still well short of a cast-iron process to make sure that what everyone gets paid is crystal clear. There are plenty of warm words but little substance on how the poisonous subcontracting system can be held to account.

There is also vague talk of how “cultural differences” could be used to mean that workers from abroad could get worse food and accommodation to British-based workers.

It is crucial that there are no “British” versus “foreign” workers divisions. This has to be a fight for jobs and the same pay and conditions for all.

This is a clear attempt to roll back the militancy of the widespread unofficial action earlier in the year.

The truth is that it was unofficial action that forced the bosses to offer any concessions at all. There needs to be a big no vote in the consultative ballot on the blue book sites in the next week.

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Article information

Tue 22 Sep 2009, 18:28 BST
Issue No. 2170
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