Socialist Worker

Wrong target in construction protest

by Simon Basketter
Issue No. 2191

The latest focal point in the battle over jobs on construction sites is the Alstom power station site in Pembroke, South Wales.

Around 2,000 jobs are due to come on-stream at the site.

The GMB union is seeking full trade union representation on the site, with no blacklisting, and a guarantee that agreements on tax and national insurance will be adhered to.

Subcontractors must not be allowed to undercut the rate. But other demands are also being raised.

On Monday of last week some 150 workers joined a rally organised by an online Facebook group called “Give the British Jobs First at Pembroke Power Station”.

Many protesters held the Daily Star newspaper’s “British jobs for British workers” posters.

The Pembroke campaign is a step backwards.

The open use of the “British jobs for British workers” slogan means the attempt to fight for jobs—and against subcontractors undercutting wages—is getting lost.

Instead, anger is being narrowed into focusing on the numbers of “foreign workers”.


You can see this in the response to the bosses’ figures on current employment on site.

According to Alstom there are 373 people currently on site and 97.5 percent of the non-management workers are British residents.

More than half came from Wales, with just under half living in Pembrokeshire.

Now of course, employers often lie.

But the rally’s organisers said those statistics were based on workers’ postcodes, not their nationality.

They’re saying it’s not even where you live that should entitle you to a job, but where you were born.

Does that mean that Irish construction workers should come off the sites?

In contrast, at a recent protest in London, the Daily Star was told in no uncertain terms not to give out its poisonous placards.

And the platform had the right emphasis—opposing the exploitation of all workers.

Attacking “foreign workers” will do nothing to help unemployed construction workers.

Taking action would—and dropping the “British jobs for British workers” slogan once and for all.

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Article information

Tue 2 Mar 2010, 18:07 GMT
Issue No. 2191
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