Socialist Worker

Construction: national agreement deal rejected

Issue No. 2172

Construction workers have rejected the national offer on pay and conditions despite their unions recommending acceptance.

There were plenty of warm words in the deal but little substance on how the poisonous subcontracting system can be held to account. Some 53 percent of workers rejected the new agreement.

The offer was 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.

There needs to be a national meeting for construction workers to discuss where next for the battles in the industry.

There has been a clear attempt to roll back the militancy of the widespread unofficial action earlier in the year.

But the truth is that it was unofficial action that forced the bosses to offer any concessions at all.

It cannot be left to local groups of workers to fight for jobs alone, such as the ongoing campaign at Uskmouth in South Wales. That opens up the prospect of “British” versus “foreign” workers divisions.

That’s why there needs to be a country-wide fight to keep the bosses on the back foot and get decent jobs and conditions for all. And that will take strike action – official or unofficial.

Health and Safety

On average, one construction worker has died each week this year.

Construction still accounts for more deaths at work than any other sector – more than 2,500 building workers have died in the past 25 years.

The government has announced plans to hold further talks with the construction bosses before making a decision on the Donaghy report on safety in the construction industry.

As the report points out, “The positive role that trade unions can play in health and safety is not fully appreciated by the construction industry.”

Indeed, the companies at the heart of the industry were behind a blacklist that was focused on trade unionists in general and health and safety reps in particular.

The bosses are now trying to water down the proposals. They are arguing that extending the gangmaster laws and making company directors legally responsible for accidents would be too expensive.

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Article information

Tue 6 Oct 2009, 18:30 BST
Issue No. 2172
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