Electricians marched to sites across central London today, Wednesday, in their protest against bosses’ plans to tear up their terms and conditions.
Site after site appeared empty. Workers stopped outside those that weren’t and chanted, “One out, all out!”
The rank and file-initiated protest also marched to Farringdon Station, site of a previous occupation. It stopped off to show solidarity with the Occupy London protest at St Paul’s Cathedral.
Workers then marched to the Shard building site in south London for the 2,000-strong official Unite demonstration.
National officials, including Unite general secretary Len McCluskey, addressed the workers. He announced that the union has given official notice for a strike ballot of workers at Balfour Beatty.
The ballot will start on Wednesday of next week. On hearing the news, one electrician remarked, “About fucking time”.
Electricians cheered McCluskey when he said, “I want to be clear. I welcome the work of the rank and file committee. I welcome direct action as part of this campaign.”
One electrician told Socialist Worker, “We have to put more and more pressure on the officials to make their talk real.”
The march then went to the Balfour Beatty site at Blackfriars. Union officials, along with a worker from the rank and file electricians’ committee, spoke.
He said, “We’re not going to take any more from these bastards. Every site will be a union site with an elected rep.”
He added, “And this is what I think of the new agreement,” as he set fire to it.
The Unite union encouraged workers to march to parliament for a lobby of MPs. This sparked shouts of “We want to march with the students!”
As the march set off, hundreds of electricians marched towards Fleet Street where they broke through police lines. Police then drew batons and contained a section of the workers.
Another group blocked the rest of the road for over an hour.
Large numbers of those in the containment, which was outside Costa Coffee, walked through the coffee shop and out the back door.
Police stopped a student protest from joining the electricians on Fleet Street. One electrician said, “What are the pigs so afraid of? Are they frightened we’ll teach the students how to use a spanner?”
But some students managed to join the electricians. Jess, one student, told Socialist Worker, “These guys build everything around us. How much more important are they than bankers?”
Unite has called another demonstration for 7 December, the day of a planned strike at Balfour Beatty.