Electricians occupied the offices of the Gratte Brothers construction site in Kings Cross station in London this morning, Wednesday.
The workers are fighting to stop building bosses tearing up their national JIB agreement and slashing wages by up to 35 percent.
Chants of “Fat cats Grattes” and “Pay cuts – no way” rang out as workers streamed through the gates and into the offices.
One worker demanded, “Get a director down here to explain why they are cutting my pay by 35 percent.”
The good-natured occupation lasted for over a hour. More than 60 electricians were inside the building and many more outside.
When police asked workers to leave, they explained that they unable to because the entrance had been mysteriously locked. Some believed that the “rank and file padlock” had appeared for the second week in a row. Others blamed management.
When one police officer asked for three electricians to negotiate with, a voice from the floor said, “I nominate Spark-ticus”.
But he was unavailable – so the electricians continued to decide their actions collectively.
Workers joked that employers were holding them captive, as there was no key available for the padlock.
Others asked if there were any work going with Grattes that they could apply for. One asked if they had his blacklisting file as he wanted to update the details.
Some 200 workers had earlier assembled at a construction project at Kings Cross station and had blocked the site entrance. They then marched round to block a road and the delivery access to the site.
Workers are keen to escalate the dispute and join in next Wednesday’s public sector strikes.
Meanwhile electricians at Balfour Beatty, another company trying to break the national agreement, are holding a strike ballot. According to their Unite union, “A senior Balfour Beatty Engineering Services human resource manager confirmed that it was the intention of the company to maintain a core workforce of skilled trades and bring in semi-skilled agency labour to make up the teams.
“These teams would consist of one craftsman, working with eight semi-skilled installer grades.”
That means out of around 1,700 directly employed at Balfour Beatty, only 400 will remain employed. The first official strike is set for 7 December.
Electricians also protested today in Manchester, Liverpool and Edinburgh.
The London occupation ended as workers marched out together.
One electrician said, “If you take money out of my pay packet, we are going to take money off you.
“We will shut down your sites, we will shut down your clients and we will bring your companies down.”
Messages of support to firstname.lastname@example.org
Unite national rank and file construction workers meeting,
Saturday 3 December 11am-2pm,
Hotel Russell and Grand Connaught Rooms
61-65 Great Queen St
London WC2B 5BE