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National construction workers strike ballot has the potential to unite all workers

This article is over 12 years, 7 months old
The Unite and GMB unions are expected this week to begin a national ballot of tens of thousands of construction workers for strikes over pay.
Issue 2155

The Unite and GMB unions are expected this week to begin a national ballot of tens of thousands of construction workers for strikes over pay.

Around 30,000 workers in the GMB and 20,000 in Unite will be balloted.

The GMB and Unite have put forward pay claims as part of the regular review of the National Agreement for the Engineering Construction Industry (NACIE, or blue book).

The blue book sets national pay and conditions that contractors and sub-contractors must adhere to.

The unions want a pay rise, changes to auditing of contracts so that they can make sure that contractors comply with the blue book, and “new arrangements” to increase job security.

GMB shop stewards met in Manchester on Friday of last week to discuss an offer that the employers had made in response to this claim.

The shop stewards unanimously rejected it and called on both unions to organise national ballots for strike action.

GMB national secretary Phil Davies said after the meeting, “Shop stewards are not happy with this final offer.

“They consider that union members will not be prepared to accept the pay freeze that the employers’ offer entails.

“They are also not happy with the rejection by the employers of new arrangements to enhance job security in the industry.

“The GMB executive council has given me authority to go ahead with this ballot.”

Unite national officer Tom Hardacre said, “Construction employers have rejected reasonable and just demands which would have delivered long-term stability and fairness in an industry that has been plagued by instability and numerous injustices.”

Socialist Worker understands that the ballot papers will include a demand for a minimum salary of £24,000 a year for all workers and payments of either time and a half or double time for overtime.

They will also include a demand to increase the transparency of contracts with regular auditing to ensure that they comply with national agreements.

These are demands that can unite all construction workers.

But union demands that local or British workers should have priority for jobs are far more problematic. The GMB and Unite want this to be nationally binding.

We should not give concessions to the idea that the solution for construction workers is to prioritise “local” workers. As we saw in earlier disputes this can pit workers against each other and weaken the fight for jobs and conditions.

We should fight to bring workers together to defend conditions and jobs for all.

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