Socialist Worker

Construction workers: locked out but fighting

by Simon Basketter
Issue No. 2244

Bosses have locked out hundreds of engineering construction workers at the Saltend Chemicals plant near Hull, in Yorkshire.

The workers, who are in the Unite and GMB unions, are building a biofuels plant, have been locked out for over a week.

They are calling for other construction workers to take solidarity action.

Yet again, the subcontracting system has allowed bosses to victimise workers.

People working for Redhall Engineering Solutions had turned up for work as usual on Tuesday of last week.

They only found out they were out of a job when they arrived—but the police were clearly warned in advance.

More than 25 police officers and two police horses were waiting to stop the workers from getting on site.

One worker said, “We were met with police and police dogs. They would just not let us on site.

“It was absolutely horrendous. I have worked in this industry for 30 years and I have never come across this type of behaviour before.”

Workers responded by blocking the site entrance.

Vivergo Fuels, owned by BP, British Sugar and DuPont, runs the plant. It cancelled a contract with Redhall, saying the project is behind schedule.

Contractor

But the people suffering are the workers. Instead of transferring them to a new contractor to continue the work, bosses locked them out.

Workers on the site had taken unofficial action earlier in this month over redundancies.

Electricians and scaffolders employed by another

subcontractor have been laid off with pay. The Redhall workers received nothing.

Workers blockaded the biofuels plant and protested at the offices of the contractor in Middlesbrough and Liverpool last week.

On Monday morning, a mass meeting of workers rejected a management offer of a £3,000 pay off.

They want to be employed by the new contractors to finish the job. This is what should happen under the construction national agreement.

Behind the dispute lies a concerted attempt by multinational construction companies to tear up hard-won agreements covering the safety, wages and conditions of workers.

The aim of subcontracting is to produce a multi-layered false economy. This false economy forces cost savings to be made at every layer.

The industry is wracked with corruption. The building bosses run blacklists to keep trade union militants off sites.

Also as long as the poisonous system of contracting and subcontracting remains, there will be constant attempts to set worker against worker.

Particularly, the bosses will attempt to turn workers against low-paid migrant labour.

Everyone must stand against such divisions.

The correct response is to demand that all construction workers are paid the rate for the job. And to fight against the subcontracting system that is driving down pay and conditions across the industry.

Solidarity, and militant industrial action, is the only language the construction bosses understand.

Send messages of support to geminis@geminis.karoo.co.uk


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Article information

News
Tue 22 Mar 2011, 17:18 GMT
Issue No. 2244
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