Workers at the construction site of a new Amazon Warehouse in Gateshead, near Newcastle, last Friday won their fight against contractors who sacked them.
Some 60 electricians had walked out after workers without adequate training were employed to do some of their work by another contractor on the site, SSE Enterprise Contracting.
SSE Enterprise Contracting denied the accusation, saying all of its workers are suitably skilled.
A day of protest followed by the Unite union members.
Another contractor, SIS Systems, responded by sacking around 40 electricians for taking part in the demonstration. Workers then held further protests.
Joe Pisani is from Unite’s Greater Glasgow Electrical Plumbing and Mechanical branch. He told Socialist Worker, “This win is going to embolden so many workplaces to go and do something.”
“Unskilled labourers do not have electrical qualifications, but the main contractor told them to connect up sockets and fire alarm systems. It’s a way to get extremely cheap labour.”
Joe explained, “Some 60 guys walked off the jobs, picketing and blocking roads. They got a threatening email to get their tools and it basically said, ‘you’re sacked’.
“They were told to leave. This set them off more.
Joe added, “Agency workers don’t usually get involved, but they did here.
“Since they got sacked, last Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday they picketed and struck outside.” “They won in less than a week,” he said.
Joe said that using ballots for “official things” such as pay fights is important, but this rank and file action meant workers fought back “there and then.”
“They went for it and attacked the bosses where it hurt,” Joe said.
“Going through those proper processes would’ve taken a minimum six weeks after getting a ballot going.
“Action is always a winner, and much, much quicker.”
The action forced Amazon to demand the contractors retreat.
It was forced to make the main contractor sit with Unite regional officers and members of the rank and file.
“They’ve now come out to say sorry and are now re-employing and hiring more electricians to do the jobs,” Joe explained.
Joe said this win “shows that giving workers a bit of organising power, helping members with what they want to do, can make a campaign go”.
“Workers will make it work—that’s how a union should be run,” he added.