CRANE DRIVERS stopped work at sites across Britain on Monday to hold protest meetings about their pay and conditions. Some 80 drivers attended in Wembley, London, and meetings took place at another five sites including Manchester and Glasgow.
The drivers are employed by PC Harrington and its subsidiary Harrington Tower Cranes, which has contracts for the prestigious Wembley stadium site. Monday's protests came after a 130-strong meeting of crane drivers in London last week. This reflects a mood for growing, collective resistance in an industry where workers are isolated across many construction sites. They are members of the AEEU section of the Amicus union.
A London crane driver told Socialist Worker, 'Since the company took over, conditions have worsened. It's a money-saving exercise. Every guy, around 170 of us, is affected in some way. We used to get paid for a guaranteed eight hours on a Saturday. That has gone. It means losing up to £50 a week. We now only get money for lodgings on the days that we are in work. This means we have to pay extra for a night's lodging or pay to travel home. In the last three weeks they have also changed our travel allowances that were paid as an incentive to take the job. One guy used to get £20 a day. Now they give him £3. We're on £7.40 an hour for a responsible and at times risky job. We can be up a crane for ten to 14 hours at a time. The management have said they wouldn't talk to us unless we called the meeting off, saying it was illegal industrial action. They even threatened to send the police in! The stewards refused, saying we are entitled to hold a union meeting. It was an excellent meeting. We have now asked Amicus for a ballot for official action, which we are sure the leadership will be amenable to.'
Harry Cowap, an AEEU-Amicus official, told Socialist Worker, 'These men, many with families, have had their terms and conditions decimated.' 'They are the poor relations of the building industry. They are underpaid and overworked, and it's time it stopped.'