Around 50 electricians and their supporters held a protest in London on Friday of last week. They were targetting construction company Crown House which has announced plans to pull out of the JIB national pay agreement.
Crown House is one of the big seven companies that were defeated by rank and file electricians’ resistance last year. The companies attempted to pull out of the Joint Industry Board (JIB) pay agreement to impose a 35 percent pay cut.
People on the protest had heard rumours of a letter to workers at Crown House telling them that new contracts were about to be dispatched. But they had also heard that anyone who refused to sign would see their “employment automatically terminated”.
These rumours were confirmed on Monday by news from Crown House workers in Leeds. They recieved a letter demanding all contracts be signed by close of day on 7 September.
On Monday this week, over 200 construction workers at Crown House clocked on under as yet unknown terms and conditions imposed on them without any consultation. They work at the giant Land Securities Trinity site in Leeds.
In the notice to workers, Crown House stated: “As you are now fully aware, the company has taken action to ensure that we can remain competitive in the long term. To this end we will shortly be despatching new contracts to all operatives.
“If you should choose not to sign, your employment will be automatically terminated. To avoid this, signed and dated contracts are to be returned by close of business on Friday 7 September.”
The unions now have a deadline for organising a fightback against this offensive by the bosses. But given the delayed response so far on the part of the official union, it will require a vigorous rank and file initiative to make sure that Crown House is taken on and beaten through the only action they understand—strikes.
On the London protest the mood among electricians was very positive. Many saw the moves by Crown House as a blatant attempt to bring in previously defeated attacks through the back door.
The protest was the start of what will be another national campaign to get Crown House back into the JIB. But we also need to recruit to the union and rebuild on-site organisation.
This must be shop steward led, with the rank and file at its heart. Then we will be better placed to defeat these attacks, now and in the future.
Ian Bradley is a member of the Electricians’ London Rank and File Committee and of the Unite union. Thanks to Brian Parkin in Leeds.