Socialist Worker

Construction workers say 'Unity is what will make the bosses listen'

by Simon Basketter
Issue No. 2271

Construction workers and their supporters inside the Farringdon site  (Pic: Smallman )

Construction workers and their supporters inside the Farringdon site (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Electricians’ protests against building bosses’ attacks on wages are escalating in scale and militancy.

Some 300 workers staged protests at two Lincolnshire oil refineries on Monday in a row over pay cuts.

They protested outside Total Lindsey and neighbouring Conoco Phillips refineries in Immingham.

Workers are angered by construction companies’ plans to re-grade staff in the mechanical and electrical sector.

Bosses want to tear up terms and conditions in the Joint Industry Board (JIB) national industry agreement and implement a 35 percent pay cut.

The Unite union’s regional officer Chris Weldon said, “Construction workers have families to support and mortgages to pay. That is why they are so determined to defend what they have.”

Across the country anger is growing. One worker told Socialist Worker, “This isn’t just about fighting for my job, it’s about fighting for every job in the industry.

“They already use every trick in the book to undercut us. That’s a daily battle but now they have declared war.”

The contractors are Bailey Building Services, Balfour Beatty Engineering Services, Tommy Clarke, Crown House Technologies, Gratte Brothers, SES and Spie Matthew Hall.

One company, MJN Colston, has backed off from breaking the agreement in response to the rank and file campaign.


Construction workers occupied Crossrail’s Farringdon site in London on Wednesday of last week.

They marched round the site and blocked the main entrance. They then decided, as one put it, to “take the protest to the bosses” because “sometimes you have to make it personal”.

They marched onto the site, past security and through barriers, and stopped work there.

It was an important escalation in militancy in their ­ongoing campaign.

The protest was the first to be officially backed by Unite—the union which represents most of the electricians.

Assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail told workers that Unite is moving to ballot electricians “as soon as possible”.

A number of workers are demanding that the ballot starts immediately and some believe unofficial action will be necessary to win the dispute.

Alan, an electrician on the London protest, told Socialist Worker, “This is just the beginning. Solidarity and unity is what will make the employers listen. The protests have to get bigger and we will need strikes.”

There were also protests in Manchester and Newcastle. In Newcastle one electrician said, “We need to catch up. We need a ballot—and quickly.

“The best way to organise is by taking them on. It’s the same everywhere. The bosses are taking the piss.”

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