Posted 5th December 2011 – includes video footage of Glasgow spraks protest
Protest at Balfour Beatty Head Office Wednesday 7th November Lumina Building, 40 Ainslie Road, Glasgow 8am
No one can argue now, the sparks in Balfour Beatty (BBES) have spoken for all electricians in the construction industry – they’re prepared to strike to defend the JIB and stop pay cuts of 35%. This from a company that has an order book of £15 billion and had made nearly £100 million in profits in the last 6 months! Facing all the obstacles and complications that have given the employers such an advantage in the construction industry for years – low union membership, lack of shop stewards, agency labour, the blacklist etc.
Unite and especially the Rank and File Committee have pulled off an incredible result. This makes all those early mornings on countless sites around the country worthwhile. It wouldn’t have been possible without the determination and tenacity of a rank and fi le led campaign of walkouts and protests that has lasted 4 months. The struggle has entered a new phase but what happens now will be decisive.
Unsurprisingly, BBES has sought and secured a legal injunction against the ballot to stop the strike next Wednesday December 7th – the day that BBES workers face having the BESNA imposed on them. Yet again the anti-union laws are used to protect massive multi-national corporations against the justified grievances of workers. This has caused the union to call off the strike and re-ballot.
But even if Unite re-ballots, the dispute must continue and escalate unofficially. Whatever the law says, the massive YES vote has legitimised this struggle. Today’s meeting should put the call out that any strike action at BBES, official or unofficial should be spread to the other companies looking to withdraw form the JIB and impose the BESNA terms.
The Balfour ballot result has already raised the confidence of electricians. Its been reported that workers are joining the union in droves in the next two companies to be balloted, NG Bailey and Tommy Clarkes. This shows the potential for a national stoppage in the industry. The best signals yet are the walkouts and stoppages that have already taken place over the last four months and are actually escalating. Corus Teesside, Lindsey, Saltend, Ratcliffe, West Burton, Carrington, Farringdon, Blackfriars, Kings Cross and countless more sites have been on stop.
BBES on behalf of all the ‘Dirty 7’ construction contractors are using the Tory anti-union laws to stop this strike, democratically voted for by a 4 to 1 margin, on a spurious technicality. Unite must now call for a national stoppage in the construction industry, even if unofficial. If not the Rank & File has to get the word out.
In 2009, it was unoffi cial strike action that started at Lindsey Oil Refinery and then went nationwide, with Socialist Party member Keith Gibson playing a leading role, that successfully defended the NAECI agreement. National strike action can defeat the employers now.
The Socialist Party is flexible and open to the different tactics needed to win any dispute but the real danger is that the momentum here could be lost. BBES are panicking because of the threat of strike action and the actual unofficial stoppages that are taking place every week around the UK.
There should be no secret deals to end this dispute but a total retreat by BBES and the other 6 companies. There has to be transparent negotiations in full view of the BBES workers and the members of the union. All out together on December 7th! Victory to the sparks!
Video footage of Glasgow sparks protest on Saturday 3rd December from Union News. Includes an interview with Rob Williams of the National Shop Stewards Network
JOIN THE NSSN – NATIONAL SHOP STEWARDS NETWORK
The NSSN resolves to rebuild the strength of our working-class movement from the bottom up by creating local, regional and national networks to put elected reps and shop stewards from different unions in permanent contact with each other. We organise solidarity when trade unions are in dispute. We will also share information to develop ways of successfully resisting attacks on our union rights, jobs, pay, conditions and pensions. We aim to build a movement that can help sweep the anti-union laws off the books and make them inoperable in the meantime.