Socialist Worker

Laing: contract revolt grows with new unity

by Matthew Cookson
Issue No. 1926

OVER 50 workers from the King’s Cross Channel Tunnel site in central London met on Wednesday of last week to reaffirm their rejection of new contracts brought in by their employer, Laing O’Rourke.

A revolt over the contract is spreading across the company. Workers employed by the same company at Heathrow Terminal Five arrived after the meeting to show their support.

Laing O’Rourke wants to shift its workers from being self employed to being directly employed by the company.

But it wants to do this by cutting basic pay and introducing a complicated bonus system that can be withheld at management’s discretion.

The company is trying to make workers sign the contracts. But workers are organising against it.

There was a lot of anger at the London meeting directed towards the Ucatt construction workers’ union, which has negotiated this new deal without consultation with its members.

Workers at the King’s Cross site have had two unofficial walkouts to hold workplace meetings.

Around 200 walked out last week to discuss the contracts. They have elected stewards to represent them.

One worker told the meeting to cheers, “Management are running scared. We won’t let our members be pushed around. This is a democratic protest.

“Let’s stick together. Join the union. We are strong together, and divided we fall. So let’s fucking stand up.”

One worker told Socialist Worker, “Management are making 45 percent of our wages conditional on bonuses. They are testing how the workforce will react, and it has reacted like this.”

During the meeting one worker argued it would be difficult to organise resistance to the contracts because of the number of Eastern European construction workers on the site.

He said that they were “only in it for the money”. While some agreed with him, the majority did not.

A number of the workers at the site are older Irish men who were on the receiving end of similar arguments in the 1960s.

“How soon we forget,” said one. “We had the same thing in the 1960s. We were seen as scum. There were signs: ‘No blacks, no Irish’.”

And a number of Eastern European workers had already joined that week’s unofficial walkout.

The meeting closed with a unanimous vote to reject the contracts and call for a national ballot of the workforce on them.Workers were planning more action as Socialist Worker went to press.

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Article information

Sat 6 Nov 2004, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1926
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