Socialist Worker

London electricians' protest blocks bridge and roads

by Simon Basketter
Issue No. 2273

London electricians blocked bridges, roads and construction site entrances today, Wednesday.

Up to 300 workers marched and protested at attempts by building bosses to slash their wages and wreck their terms and conditions.

A group of building contractors have set up the Building Engineering Services National Agreement (Besna) in opposition to the existing Joint Industry Board (JIB) national industry agreement. The new proposals would cut wages by up to a third.

The London protest began outside the Tate Modern construction site. One electrician in the Unite union told Socialist Worker, “The Besna companies are trying to get a skills card license to have their own card grading for workers. That will give them even more control over the hiring and firing on site.”

The Education Activist Network brought a banner in solidarity with the electricians. Chants rose up of, “Students and workers united will never be defeated”.

Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn spoke to the crowd pledging his support for the campaign.

Two speakers from the US Teamsters’ union spoke.

Employers at Sotheby’s in New York have forced through new contracts and locked out workers there for two and a half months.

Jason Ide, President of Teamsters Local 814, said, “Everywhere the capitalists are uniting to increase profits and take more from us. Your fight is our fight. Together we can win.”

The Metropolitan Police seemed to have decided to produce its own public sculpture outside the Tate, parking over 15 vans in the area.

Workers moved off round to the front of the Tate then occupied the Millennium footbridge.

“Whose Bridge? Our bridge!” went the chant. “Then hurry up and get on it,” came the shout as workers streamed through.

The protest then marched to block rush hour traffic on the roads around St Paul’s Cathedral.

Workers then moved off to the Balfour Beatty project at Blackfriars.

Workers from that site came out and took leaflets. Some joined the protest, despite site security and managers making their opposition clear.

One Balfour worker told Socialist Worker, “They need to call us out across the country, otherwise the companies will walk over you.”

Workers have been demanding that the union call a strike ballot before the 7 December implementation date for the new contracts. Many also want to join the 30 November public sector strikes.

At a Unite construction meeting last night and again today Unite officials said that, “they expected a positive announcement on the ballot next Tuesday.”

There is an urgency to this. Ballot or no ballot, constructions sites need to be shut down.

One worker said, “The skills grades will be decided by the bosses on their terms. They’re not tearing up the agreement – they’re tearing up the industry. We have to stop deliveries to sites, and hold them up and hit them in the pockets.”

It has emerged that there are 1,690 workers at Balfour Beatty who have been issued with notice that will be sacked if they don’t sign new terms and conditions. Next Wednesday’s London protest is again at the Balfour Beatty Blackfriars site.

John, an electrician, told Socialist Worker, “If there was ever a site that needed shutting down to get across what we want it is this one

“Time is catching up with us fast. We need to take them down.”

Send messages of support to siteworkers@virginmedia.com


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News
Wed 12 Oct 2011, 10:00 BST
Issue No. 2273
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