Socialist Worker

Electricians lay siege to Balfour Beatty

by Simon Basketter
Issue No. 2275

Outside the Blackfriars site on Wednesday morning (Pic: http://www.guysmallman.com/Guy Smallman )

Outside the Blackfriars site on Wednesday morning (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Some 400 workers blocked the entrances of the Balfour Beatty site at Blackfriars in central London this morning, Wednesday.

As well as blocking entrances, the workers set up a picket at the goods entrance, stranding one truck inside while numerous others were turned away.

And as the morning progressed, they linked up with activists from Occupy London outside St Paul’s Cathedral.

One electrician told Socialist Worker, 'It’s simple – they are attacking us, so we are shutting down their site.

'Stopping the site deliveries costs them a fortune. It hurts them hard.'

Building bosses have launched an onslaught on electricians’ terms and conditions. They are tearing up the national agreement and trying to cut wages by up to 30 percent.

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

There is determination among the electricians to take direct action to stop them.

George said, 'They have declared war. We can stop traffic. We can stop production.'

From first thing this morning, workers stood in front of the entrance holding signs that said 'Closed by rank and file workers'.

The protesters blocked three entrances to the site, and numbers of workers agreed not to go in. This is despite reports of electricians being moved from sites or sacked after joining previous protests.

The police were enthusiastic in their attempts to get people past the protest, but it didn’t always work.

A leaflet given to Balfour workers by management before the protest moaned about difficulty of competing in the current economic climate.

But Balfour Beatty’s orders are up 6 percent, with £15.5 billion worth of projects on its books since last year. Last year its pre-tax profits were £50.5 million. Ian Tyler, the firm’s chief executive, pocketed £979,994.

'My heart bleeds for them,' John told Socialist Worker. 'They take in millions but want us to take a thirty percent cut.'

A delegation came to join the protest from the Occupy London protest, as did one from the Education Activist Network.

The battle against the bosses is escalating. The Unite union announced it is to ballot 1,000 members at four Balfour Beatty construction sites.

Balfour Beatty has issued redundancy notices to almost 1,700 electricians.

Strikes could hit key infrastructure projects, including power stations and train project Crossrail. A national day of action has also been called for 9 November.

One electrician told Socialist Worker, “Each week we move a little bit forward, each week is a little more pressure on the bosses. But we need to up the ante big time. It is not a choice – it simply has to happen.”

The protest today lasted longer today than on previous weeks, going well past the job’s start time.

Workers then marched to the Occupy London camp at St Paul’s, where they were received with cheers and applause.

One electrician said, 'We are fighting the same fight, the same system. It’s the bankers that are in debt, not us.

'Let’s make them pay. United we will win.'


Ucatt union joins 30 November action

Thousands of building workers working for councils and the NHS are to ballot to join the three million workers set to strike on 30 November.

Construction workers’ union Ucatt said it will hold its most extensive industrial action ballot in its history in protest at the government’s 'unfair attack' on pensions.

Ucatt said it will be balloting its members at 500 employers in local government, the NHS and the civil service from later this month.


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