Protests are growing across the construction industry against plans to cut electricians’ pay by up to 35 percent.
Around 200 construction workers protested in central London on Wednesday of last week, after eight major construction firms announced plans to break from the longstanding national pay agreement.
They plan to introduce new, lower-paid skill grades for electricians and pipe fitters.
James, a young electrician who works on the Blackfriars station construction site, said, “If anything we should get a pay rise. All the prices are going up. How can we get a start in life?”
“My dad was an electrician,” Brian, who works at the nearby Euston site, told Socialist Worker. “He’d be turning in his grave if he knew what was going on.
“They make us go back to college every year to upgrade our skills—but then they want to take our money away.”
The pay cut is planned for March next year, and includes long-term projects like Thameslink, Crossrail, the redevelopment of Heathrow and Gatwick airports and the construction and decommissioning of power plants.
The Unite union has condemned the cuts, and rank and file activists are already organising a response.
Some 500 workers packed into Conway Hall in central London on 13 August to elect a rank and file committee and call for the union to ballot for industrial action. Days later 200 people came to a meeting of Unite’s London construction branch.
“It was too big for the hall, and we had to hold the meeting in the street” said branch secretary Steve Kelly, a blacklisted electrician who was also elected to the rank and file committee.
Workers voted unanimously to call Wednesday’s protest—“the first of many”.
Protests are also due to take place in Manchester, and meetings are set for Wales and north east England.
A demonstration is planned at the Westfield construction site in Stratford, east London, on Wednesday of this week.