Socialist Worker

The war on building sites has opened up new fronts

by Simon Basketter
Issue No. 2279

Protests on construction sites across Britain turned into mass stay-aways last week. Groups of other construction workers have united with electricians to walk off the job.

At the Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station in Nottinghamshire, electricians, scaffolders and welders all stayed out of work.

More than 200 electricians picketed both gates at SSI steel works (formerly Corus) in Redcar, Teeside.

Scaffolders and electricians refused to work.

A student delegation from Teesside University unfurled a banner saying “Students and workers unite and fight”.

One worker from Middlesbrough said, “These protest are about freezing wages.

“We’re going to need national action as these changes are going to have a knock-on effect on everybody.”

One electrician spoke of the solidarity they have received from students while another spoke about the importance of unity between public and private sector workers.

A short meeting concluded with electricians blocking the Redcar entrance of the site. Traffic backed up around the roundabout.

Workers also stayed off the job at the Pembroke power

station in Wales.

Other sites to have walkouts included Stanlow in Ellesmere Port, Grangemouth in Scotland, Sellafield in Cumbria, West Burton in Nottinghamshire, Runcorn, Drax and Eggborough in north Yorkshire, Ferrybridge in west Yorkshire, Hinckley point in Somerset and Lindsey oil refinery in Lincolnshire

In Saltend workers on one project protested and in Liverpool 20 workers from the John Moores University site refused to work and joined a protest there.

In London, up to 200 workers protested at the Farringdon Crossrail construction site.

The contractor is Crown House.

It wants to replace teams of electricians with teams made up of only one electrician and eight semi-skilled workers—who will earn a third less.


Two Unite union stewards were recently elected on the site—but management refused to recognise them.

After the protest they agreed to recognise one of the stewards.

At the site the main delivery gate had mysteriously been locked with what one worker called a “rank and file” padlock, preventing lorries getting in or out.

Electricians from the site refused to go into work.

One Crown House worker told Socialist Worker, “It looks like a picket line and you don’t cross a picket line do you? It’s important to take a stand.”

On the picket line workers held an impromptu meeting and discussed where to take the campaign.

An official strike ballot of Balfour Beatty electricians is underway and the result is due on 30 November.

The electricians are campaigning to stop building bosses tearing up their national JIB agreement and cutting wages by up to 35 percent.

Agencies are already recruiting the new grade of “installers” in preparation for the introduction of the new contracts.

Many of the workers protesting aren’t covered by the JIB agreement but are

covered by the “blue book” national agreement instead.

One scaffolder told Socialist Worker, “Our bosses are pushing through a pay freeze for us and pay cuts for the sparks.

“They are coming for us all, so we all have to fight back together.”

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Article information

Tue 22 Nov 2011, 18:25 GMT
Issue No. 2279
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