Building Worker newsletter - Autumn 2007

Newsletter containing articles on organising site workers ahead of the Olympics, fighting the blacklist in Manchester, pay and holiday pay, a recent strike against racism and the dangers of trusting union officials.

Submitted by magnifico on November 21, 2007

If you want or need help organizing and would like to meet rank and file union members with enough experience of how to help and advise you. Phone UK R&F BWC on 07942 252280. We’ll gladly meet you in a pub or anywhere else you choose after work near your site for a chat.
We’ll also hold local meetings in the future to discuss the situation on he sites there and the policies of the UK R&F BWC as in the paper. So if you know any good pubs please let us know!

The UK R&F BWC MONTHLY MEETING: 3rd Tuesday, the Cock Tavern.

Fight the Blacklist - Support the Manchester Sparks!

Three electricians in Manchester who were picked out, victimised and sacked by the use of the Blacklist on May 12th 2006 from the 6 year PFI project at Bovis’s Manchester Royal Infirmary site are still bravely fighting on to try to get their jobs back and the right to work. Also for the other [what should be human] right to belong to a trade union and organise on site.

They have won industrial tribunals who found they were unfairly dismissed because of their union activities but still they remain unemployed. There will be a Remedy Hearing in October to decide what should be done about the blacklisting and sacking of these workers and the prolonged period of unemployment they have suffered since. Unfortunately Industrial Tribunals, or Remedy Hearings arising out of these, do not have the legal powers to force employers to re-instate workers victimised and sacked, on this occasion by use of the blacklist. Only Industrial action by their fellow workers and trade unionists on site can do that!

These workers have highlighted the existence and use of the Blacklist. Against trade union activists and militants in the construction industry with their brave struggle. And even forced Electrical Contractors to admit this, which is a first! Yet they remain unemployed.

The main lesson learned from this struggle is that to defeat and counter the insidious use of the Blacklist and sinister denial of the democratic rights it entails as soon as it is used against a building worker or workers on site. There should be a strike and pickets mounted on that site by their fellow workers and trade unionists and employers told in no uncertain terms the strike and picket remains until the victimised and blacklisted worker is or workers are reinstated! It is then and only then employers will think twice about using the Blacklist and if there’s enough industrial action over this issue stopping the vile practice altogether.
In the meantime let’s all support the Manchester Sparks and we hope all who read this paper do exactly that. The sparks union EPIU / TGWU (now UNITE)
have let them down badly. They could have put pressure on the firm who sacked them and challenged the Blacklist which also affects many other sparks and building workers. At TGWU conference this year a collection took place. Rank and file members were very generous and the sparks were very grateful.They would especially like to TGWU General Secretary Tony Woodley who we are told gave £2. Split between the 3 sparks families this might buy 3 packets of Smarties. By the way, Tony Woodley’s salary is around £100,000 per year!!

Donations and messages of support to: G.Bowker, 1 Wells Close, Droylesden, Manchester M43 6BY. Cheques made out to THE LOGIC HARDSHIP FUND.

Sparks flying and votes of no confidence over three year JIB deal!!

Earlier this year site electricians in Unite voted against a three year JIB deal negotiated by union officials under the control of National Officer Tom Hardacre. Everywhere this deal was put to meetings of sparks site stewards and rank and file union members. Much anger was expressed and Hardacre and company were told to uphold the ballot result and take the deal back to the employers and demand a much better one.
Hardacre’s reply was to organise a meeting of 14 hand picked stewards in London and they voted 8-6 for the deal.
This fury and anger was reflected at the September meeting of Unite’s London Construction Branch when over 40 rank and file sparks unanimously carried a vote of no confidence in Hardacre and his associates and demanded he stands down. More significantly and importantly they also voted unanimously to remove the sitting branch secretary, who was one of the eight stooges who voted for the deal, and unanimously voted in Steve Kelly, a well known and respected militant sparks to replace him. Two other militant sparks were also voted in to replace the sitting chair and treasurer respectively. The three new branch officials are also supporters of the UK R&F BWC.
Latest we hear is that word [i.e. a rumour!] is being put round, by officials of course, that the next deal will be a one year deal. No doubt this is a sweetener to try to convince the rank & file to accept the bitter pill of the crap that’s presently on ‘offer’. Bollocks! Many rank & file sparks are saying, we want a ONE YEAR DEAL NOW AND SOMETHING LIKE £20PH FOR ALL SITE SPARKS.
And so say all of us!!

Question asked: is £20ph achievable? Answer: Yes, but.......!!

At a recent site workers’ meeting of the UK R&F BWC in London a general worker asked if £20ph is achievable. It is quite significant this question came from a general worker, many of who are on round about £10 per hour and even less. Some migrant workers are put on the minimum wage and that’s an insult to those on it and those politicians and employers who’re responsible for it and the unions who accept it and are beneath contempt. So our policy demand for £20ph is quite a leap and takes some believing for many site workers!
The secretary of the UK R&F BWC replied that yes, £20ph is achievable, but all site workers in all occupations are going to have to unite, organise and fight and will be forced to take strike action to get it. Building employers are not going to give it to us on a plate just because we ask for it and deserve it!!
If building workers are organised and ELECT good shop stewards to represent them they can change site conditions over pay and other major issues on site dramatically. This has been done many times in the past, more recently by the steel erectors at Wembley Stadium and before that the sparks on the Jubilee Line in the late 90’s. Going back further, wage rises were achieved by site workers in struggle at Thames Barrier in the 80’s before UCATT did a disgraceful no strike deal, the Barbican Centre earlier, and of course the biggest and most successful united struggle of site workers in all occupations across Britain in the 1972 national strike when a rise in the basic wage for all occupations of 30% was achieved!
It was said in 1997 that sparks would never get £10ph in the foreseeable future. It’s now £14.09 per hour. And the latest three year deal has been rejected in a ballot and we’re demanding a much better basic rate and the UK R&F BWC think and want all site workers to join in and make it one big struggle and movement for £20ph for all site workers. And another warning! NEVER rely on FTO’s – they’ll sell you out and let you down! Do it yourself on site, take action, stop the job and set up picket lines and get all trades and occupations involved.
It has been successful in the past and can be successful again. Join a union and make sure it’s organised on site and NOT controlled by FTO’s!!
Rather than give up or accept the crap wages and conditions on site……..

Union officials talk! talk! talk! While Building bosses kill! kill! kill! Time to strike! strike! strike!

This is not along article. Because since the publication of the 31% increase in the killing of site workers by construction bosses in the year March 2006 to March 2007 fulltime union officials have been queuing up, with UCATT’s General secretary Ritchie at the head of the queue, to speak to the press about the appalling situation in construction. Many thousands of words have been written and volumes of hot air, enough to further affect climate change, has been expelled by these officials talking to the media about the killing of site workers. There has been much wringing of hands, beating of breasts and weeping of copious CROCODILE tears by these same people. Works and Pensions Secretary Peter Hain, well-known political bullshitter, called a summit in London on September 17th to discuss what to do about the carnage. But of course the killing and it looks like the increase in this continues with news of deaths on sites all over Britain reported it seems about every other day. Talk about ‘Nero fiddling while Rome burns’!
All these people do is talk while building workers burn, so to speak!

If Fulltime Union Officials [FTO’s] and politicians over the years really felt a quarter of how they profess to feel in public about the killing and maiming of site workers it would’ve stopped long ago! Of course none of them ever talk about what it would really take to stop the killing. Because their lives and limbs are not at risk in union offices [or the odd time they actually visit workers on sites this days] or the Houses of Parliament. Of course strike action would also upset the ultra friendly relationships they have with, all but in this case construction bosses, who effectively control all fulltime union officials. And the Government [of whatever hue!]

It is an indisputable fact that only site workers whose lives and limbs are at risk on a daily basis in the Killing Fields known as Britain’s Construction Industry can have the desire, the anger and have the potential power to put a stop to the wanton killing and maiming on the sites. And it is only when they get organised, mobilised and strike and hit those callous, ruthless, profiteering building bosses responsible for the killing in the only place it really hurts their pockets - hit their profits hard - that they will listen to us and agree to put the measures and policies on wages and working conditions in place needed to stop the carnage and improve immeasurably the working lives of site workers. And don’t forget they kill and maim and exploit building workers regardless of where you come from or your colour or beliefs! So it’s time for all site workers to Unite and Fight together regardless of these things too!!


Al Tokalot - FATCATT column

Al is the general Secretary of FATCATT, the biggest construction union in the building employers’ pockets. He’s got plenty of company in there but FATCATT boast of being the biggest. We invite him and he writes as a guest [not fifth!] columnist for the paper and he say’s he’s only too glad to do so. So it’s over to AL….

Hello Everybody AL here,

Once more I take this opportunity to write for such a fine, honest, hard hitting rank and file workers’ paper which champions the workers’ cause and tells it like it really is on site and in the unions. This also helps me to sleep with a clear conscience for at least the night of the day I write the Column. You’ll know what I mean when you look at the truly terrible three year and other dirty deals I’m up to my neck in and if you’ve read FATCATT’s official paper, which is bloody awful.

Obviously as a fulltime union official, and the General Secretary to boot, I can’t say or write what I like about the bosses. This as I cannot afford to upset the people I spend so much of my working life meeting and socialising with. After all, where would I go, who would I talk to if I didn’t have them? And how do site workers and other union members think those three-year pay and working conditions deals union officials agree to with employers come about? I’ll have you readers know fulltime officials sweat blood [while site workers spill theirs - that’s my conscience again!] as well as go through mountains of food and drink, play quite a lot of golf, and one even went up in a helicopter, all paid for by the employers, to bring you the benefits we do. Yes things like…there I go again, I always have a memory lapse when I try to list the benefits we bring site workers.

Writing of lapses, I should’ve been a bit more careful when I blamed striking site workers and what I call bogus self employed workers [word bogus to create confusion, clever eh?], many of who are migrant workers as I wrote, for the chaotic state of the construction industry in an interview I did for the Guardian newspaper in June. I don’t often let my official mask slip as badly as that! I can only offer the excuse of too much claret and I thought I was representing the bosses at the time. Well, I spend so much time with them I don’t know my bosses arse from my bosses elbow. Who is it I’m supposed to represent again? Please write and tell me at FATCATT House in London.

However I can assure you dear readers that interview was not how I really feel about or see things in the industry. This is what this great paper allows me to do. Speak my mind.
Since the Guardian article I ‘ve done quite a few interviews in which I’ve really told the bosses off and slapped them really hard on the wrists for the increase in the killing and maiming of site workers last year. And just to emphasis how angry I was I told them in private they’ll need to find new eating and drinking and golfing partners if things don’t improve soon. They looked positively terrified. Of course I never mentioned site workers getting organised and ELECTING site stewards and, God the TUC and CBI forbid, actually striking to stop the killing and maiming. And throw away all those extremely inspiring and profitable years for the bosses of a New Labour Government, BLIAR, Brown, Iraq, public sector job and pay cuts etc and all? Not on your life! Mind you, I get the impression the building employers think I’m a bit of a paper tiger. Do you?

As ever, writing this and telling the truth, which is always so draining, has truly exhausted me. I now need to put down my mighty pen [Only those in control think it is mightier than the sword but don’t tell anyone], wipe my weary brow and go for a well earned sleep on the one night my conscience lets me. Till next time my dear readers.

I remain yours,
The employers,
I mean the workers,

Olympics 2012 - Time to start organising!

Now is the time to start to organize on the Olympic sites in Stratford, East London. Ground workers are already on the project as well as demolition and site clearance firms. These occupations are among the most exploited and underpaid as well as dangerous.
Site workers and trade unionists cannot, must not rely on Stooge Convener Stewards appointed and controlled by building employers and fulltime union officials. They do not want or allow democratic rank and file organization. They want to run the show on behalf of the employers who pay their wages and supply them with company cars. So it’s obvious whose side their on!

If you want or need help organizing and would like to meet rank and file union members with enough experience of how to help and advise you. Phone UK R&F BWC on 07942 252280. We’ll gladly meet you in a pub or anywhere else you choose after work near your site for a chat.
We’ll also hold local meetings in the future to discuss the situation on he sites there and the policies of the UK R&F BWC as in the paper. So if you know any good pubs please let us know!

The UK R&F BWC MONTHLY MEETING: 3rd Tuesday, the Cock Tavern.

Holiday pay - claim it now!

From this October workers are entitled to an extra 4 days holiday giving 24 days bank holidays can be included. This is the minimum PAYE CIS and agency workers are entitled to these holidays –it’s the law. Your union should get you holiday pay – don’t let the employers rob you! Did you know that most union officials get 35 days holiday plus bank holidays? Perhaps they could try and get more holidays for union members and all site workers when they get time. The national minimum wage has gone up to a pathetic £5.52 per hour. Believe it or not, some building firms and agencies are paying this piss poor rate to their workers. Its high time unions fought for a pay rise – how are people meant to live on this money, less than £200 a week after tax over 40 hours.

Site Workers Strike against Racism

Near the end of September about three hundred workers downed tools and went on political strike AGAINST RACISM and marched on the offices of Chicago Bridge and Iron Company who are overseeing the construction of the liquefied natural gas pipeline at Milford Haven in Wales. They took this action in support of Omar Mohammed, a steel erector rigger from Cardiff, after claims site management had continually failed to act on Omar’s complaints about racial harassment. Abuse had been going on for sometime but had now come to a head.

Omar said that two workers made nazi salutes and pointed a hammer at him as if it was a gun. 65 year old Omar also said ‘For nine days I went through the proper channels and we had meeting after meeting. There were two witnesses to the incident, a superintendent and an apprentice. The three of us have made statements but management say we have no evidence.’
‘I have spent nine days trying to get justice and was gong to have to go off work with stress but the men downed tools and marched on the office of Chicago Bridge and Iron Company. The men were totally disgusted. I couldn’t have carried on without the support of the men. Management would have brushed it under the carpet until I gave up. They have only done something because the men came out.’
Another worker on site said ‘One of our mates has been racially abused. There have been nazi salutes and slights made to him. He’s 65 years old and he has taken this to heart. It has upset him terribly. But we made this an issue and will not tolerate such crap.’

[should be by the b…s!!]
The two ‘heroes’, who waged this frightening campaign of racist abuse and intimidation against this 65 year old man were suspended from site pending a full investigation. THEY SHOULD NOT BE ALLOWED BACK AGAIN!!
The workers who took strike action showed working class solidarity is alive and well and it’s not just about money! Site workers everywhere should take a leaf from the book of the workers in Milford Haven and if all else fails to stop this sort of racism then STRIKE IT OUT!! DON’T LET THEM DIVIDE AND RULE.