Socialist Worker

A scaffold for future victories

Issue No. 1920

A STUNNING victory by 240 steel erectors at the Wembley Stadium site could open the door to further advances across the construction industry.

The sacked men won reinstatement on Tuesday of last week after four weeks of protest.

“It is a tremendous result,” says steel erector Tony Ryan.

“We were in effect sacked twice—once when we were transferred from one company to another, and again when we refused to work a 66-hour week.

“We did what anyone in that situation would do. We set up a protest on the gates and appealed for other workers to back us.

“The message from Multiplex and Hollandia, the companies that took over the contract, and from the agency that provided us for them was the same.

“They said they would not budge. But basic solidarity has forced them to back off.”

The steel erectors voted to accept a deal at a mass meeting last Wednesday.

“We are returning on Blue Book conditions—that’s the national agreement that covers the industry,” says Tony Connor, an Amicus union steward.

“That is better than we were on when we were sacked.

“The discussions now are about the order in which we are taken back. We want to have a say over that, not the management.

“And people are going to press for compensation for lost wages.”

The victory at Wembley is highly significant. The actions by Multiplex, an Australian multinational, at Wembley looked like part of an attempt by construction contractors to break national terms and conditions.

There are already a number of major construction projects in Britain—at Heathrow’s Terminal Five and in White City, for example.

There could be many more, particularly if the London Olympic bid goes ahead.

“Our victory has national significance,” says steel erector Andy Hall.

“It was built through solidarity. We contacted workers on other sites and employed by other outfits.

“They refused to come down to Wembley to do our work. One of the contractors, Hollandia, brought over a dozen blokes from Holland.

“But when we explained what was going on they refused to work as well.

“That meant during the four weeks we were sacked there was no steel going up at Wembley. And we were getting solidarity.

“Collections were coming in from other workplaces, and not just construction. Trade unionists in Brent and Harrow mobilised support. And we were looking for action at other sites.”

The victory at Wembley owes everything to the determination and action of the sacked workers.

Some are members of the GMB union, which was prepared to support their action.

But officials in the Amicus union repudiated it, saying the law prevented them from giving backing. The union is now holding an inquiry into one official.

Tony Ryan says, “The union is about the members, not the offices and salaries of the officials.

“We’ve shown that it is possible to win.

“We need to get organised everywhere and be prepared to take action, no matter what some union officials say.”

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Article information

Sat 25 Sep 2004, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1920
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