Socialist Worker

Balfour Beatty court defeat gives green light for electricians’ strike

by Simon Basketter
Issue No. 2290

Electricians take on the bosses outside their posh Park Lane dinner  (Pic: Smallman )

Electricians take on the bosses outside their posh Park Lane dinner (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Electricians at construction firm Balfour Beatty are set to strike officially, after bosses’ attempts to use the anti-union laws to stop them failed.

The company failed to obtain an injunction against the Unite union at the High Court today (Thursday).

Balfour workers voted two-to-one for a strike for the second time earlier this month.

Now Unite must issue the strike notice immediately.

The company argued the strike vote process was flawed. But Judge David Eady disagreed. He wrote, “It seems clear that any such failures would be unintentional.”

The company is one of a group of contractors that are trying to force through worse terms, conditions and pay in opposition to the existing national agreement.

Their “Besna agreement” would cut wages by up to a third.

One member of the London electricians’ rank and file committee told Socialist Worker, “After six months of campaigning, and the companies refusing to listen to the workers, the news from the courts is fantastic. Now we will strike, hit them hard and make them listen.”

An official strike committee of Balfour Beatty stewards has been elected and a programme of rolling one-week strikes has been agreed.

As part of the campaign, up to 300 construction workers took their fight to the building bosses last night. They targeted the Electrical Contractors Association’s annual black tie dinner, held at the Grovesnor hotel on London’s posh Park Lane.

The people who profit from the construction industry came face to face with those who make them rich. And the bosses didn’t like it one bit.

Workers blocked Park Lane and held up rush hour traffic across central London for almost an hour.

The electricians had brought along a large inflatable rat. One worker said, “We are not going away. We are protesting until the Besna agreement is stuck in the bin and the rats are driven out of the industry.

“We are construction workers and we are not going away until we win.”

The police arrived and attempted to push the protest out of the road. The workers then moved to the hotel entrance. The police decided to protect the hotel—so leaving Park Lane to the electricians to occupy again, which they promptly did.

Some workers walked in to the Grosvenor and attempted to book a room, but the hotel wouldn’t let them. One electrician told the crowd, 'We weren't invited to the bosses’ party—so we will have one here.'

Electricians blocking the road danced and did the conga in front of the consistently baffled police.

The great and good of the electrical industry were severely delayed in their arrival and harried from entrance to entrance.

Labour London mayoral candidate Ken Livingstone told the workers he was “opposed to anyone who has broken the conditions you have fought for over 100 years.” He then went inside to the dinner, where he was a guest speaker.

The Balfour workers need solidarity from all grades and all sites to shut down the construction industry and stop the attacks in their tracks.

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