Electricians occupied the London headquarters of construction firm Gratte Brothers on Wednesday of last week. 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 near the Kings Cross station construction site.
The good-natured occupation lasted for over a hour. More than 60 electricians were inside the building and many more outside. One worker demanded, “Get a director down here to explain why they are cutting my pay by 35 percent.”
When police asked workers to leave, they explained that they couldn’t because the entrance had mysteriously been 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 Spark-ticus was unavailable—so the electricians continued to decide their actions collectively.
Others asked if there was any work going with Grattes that they could apply for. One asked if they had his blacklisting file, since he wanted to update the details.
Some 200 workers assembled earlier at the Kings Cross construction project and blocked the site entrance. They marched round to block delivery access to the site.
Meanwhile electricians at Balfour Beatty, another company trying to break the national agreement, are holding a strike ballot. The first official strike is set for 7 December.
According to their union, Unite, Balfour Beatty plans to cut down its directly employed force from 1,700 to 400, bringing in eight semi-skilled agency workers for every one skilled employee.
The London occupation ended as workers marched out together. Electricians also protested the same day in Manchester, Liverpool and Edinburgh.
Unite national rank and file construction workers meeting
Saturday 3 December, 11am to 2pm, Hotel Russell and Grand Connaught Rooms, 61-65 Great Queen St, London WC2B 5BE
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