Chapter 6: 'The struggle continues'

Submitted by wojtek on March 13, 2013

As in the first edition I finish the second one with a chapter entitled 'The Struggle Continues'. This will outline and bring you up-to-date on some developments showing how the struggle continued since the last pamphlet and why Hehir and Company tried to silence us and they'd still like to!

Xmas/New Year 1996/7. Concrete stopped by picket. Victory in Milton Keynes.
On 6th January 1997 a bricklayer who was a member of Northampton UCATT Branch phoned and told me he and another 12 brickies had been sacked that morning on returning from the Xmas/New Year break and 8 others started in their place. The sacked men asked if I could help. I said yes and did.

I established they were entitled to one week's pay in lieu of notice and that the employers, Kings Associates, owed them a week in hand. Quite a bit of money they were being robbed of. As they only had a couple of weeks left on the job the men understandably didn't think it was worth fighting for their jobs back but said they'd do battle for wages owed and money in lieu of notice.

They elected a representative and he and I went to see their employer and the main contractor SDC. We told them if the wages owed and money in lieu of notice were not paid that day a picket would be put on the job and we'd picket the whole SDC site to a standstill. They laughed and obviously thought we were bluffing. They didn't pay and the next morning the picket went on. Kings Associates were still laughing but this stopped abruptly when we halted a concrete lorry, with more queuing back at the yard, which was the first for a big pour! Within an hour the lads got all money due and a wee bit extra for aggravation caused to them. I left Kings Associates with the parting shot "funny you're not laughing now"!! We'd wiped the smiles of their faces. The power of the picket!! Lou Lewis, who'd been sent up by Brumwell (he could hardly send Hehir!), was very impressed with our action and end result. He supported us all the way.

1997 UCATT PAYE campaign.
In response to this we in Northampton organised a public meeting in the town hall and went round many sites here and in the surrounding areas with union literature. Lou Lewis was with us on a couple of these site visits. As well as the message about PAYE, as ever I was hammering it out on the sites about safety and working conditions and the need to get unionised and organised.

The employers were clearly getting rattled. I forecast the phones would be ringing and Brumwell would be asked by angry and worried building employers "why the hell are you letting Higgins and Northampton UCATT loose on the sites" and that they'd order' Brumwell to wind down the site campaigning to ensure I was kept off them.

The public meeting we organised took place on 21st April and 75 - 80 from local sites turned up, an astonishing attendance in an area where there had been no site organisation or even union presence in the private sector for about 20 years. This showed the effectiveness of UCATT's PAYE and our local campaigning. However, we in Northampton UCATT are sure that under the orders of the General Secretary. Lou Lewis, the Regional Secretary, droned on for over 50 minutes on the platform and literally sent some men to sleep and quite a few home. This effectively put the PAYE Campaign to sleep as well and like all official campaigns UCATT didn't follow up their initial launch. Brumwell and the building employers must have been well pleased with Lewis's lullaby!!

We tried to resurrect the campaign locally but without union funding it proved impossible. However, one event proved the potential for a R&F campaign and how much the employers feared this. We produced a local bulletin entitled 'Stop Death on Site - Get Unionised - Get Organised' and put it into many local sites. I received the letter of 25th July 1997 from Mr Bradley BSc, C.Eng., MICE (squeak! squeak!), MI. (I worked on that as well!) Struct.E., Build Director. Phew, notice no real experience of actually working on site!. Obviously a fantasy builder with more credits than Walt Disney. Mickey Mouse also springs to mind! Letter from Bradley and my reply of 30.7.97. shown here.

{Text of letter:-

Bovis Homes Limited
Central Region
Castle Bromwich Hall
Birmingham B36 9DF

Telephone: 0121 747 4861
Facsimile: 0121 748 1307
DX: 23252 Castle Bromwich

Registered Office: Bovis House, Lansdown Road
Cheltenham, Gloucestershire GL50 2JA
Registration Number: 397634 Registered in England

Branch Office
2 Bitten Court

For the Attention of Mr B Higgins, Branch Secretary

25th July 1997

Dear Sirs


I am writing with regard to a visit made to our Towcester Road site on Wednesday 23rd July by one of your officials.

It appears that your official was on site for a considerable part of the morning. Apparently he wandered around the site, speaking to many of the workers and distributing copies of the attached leaflet. Our site manager was very busy that morning and was only made aware of the visit after your official left site.

I am very concerned about your officials actions, he had not made prior arrangements for the visit and did not even inform the site manager of his presence. I very much doubt that he wore a safety helmet and protective footwear.

These points are particularly disappointing when one considers that Health and Safety on site seems to be the main topic of your leaflet.

Could I suggest that you need to speak to this official and establish a safe procedure for visits to site.

I have no objection to your union making contact with the operatives on our sites, provided that it is by prior arrangement and provided that appropriate Health and Safety measures are adopted.

Could you please ensure that this does not happen again.

Yours sincerely

A Bradley
BSc., C.Eng., MICE, MI.Struct.E

cc B M Johnson
K R Parsons
G Barbet
UCATT, National Secretary, Head Office

end of text.}

{Text of letter:-

Mr.A.Bradley, 2 Bitten Court,
Build Director, Lumbertubs,
Bovis Homes Limited, Northampton.
Central Region, 30. 7. 97.
Castle Bromwich Hall,
Birmingham B36 9DF.

Dear Mr. Bradley,

Thanks for your letter of 25th July 1997 Ref AB/LKHLA/0927 entitled 'SITE VISIT [NORTHAMPTON]'. Members of this branch did indeed visit the Bovis site you write of and quite a few others with the leaflet of which you enclosed a photocopy in your letter of July 25th.

First things first.The main topic on the leaflet was not as seemed to you, to quote "Health and Safety on site", unquote. It is much more about the complete lack of this in the building industry. Which was so apparent on all of the sites we visited with our leaflet.

Regards your writing that you "very much doubt he wore a safety helmet and protective footwear" in reference to UCATT personnel.

I've never known or heard that walking around a housing site was considered unsafe or put life and limb at risk.To my knowledge it is working on, and not purely walking around, a construction site which seriously puts life and limb at risk.

Hard hats and protective footwear are a sensible precaution. But of course building workers are continually killed and seriously injured on 'Hard Hat Sites' and where protective footwear is worn.

The vast majority of workers killed or seriously injured on site are not killed or maimed by small objects falling or hitting them on the head or feet. Most are killed or seriously injured in falls from heights, often not that high, or crushed down a trench or by site plant/transport or by extremely heavy objects or loads falling on them.

Invariably these things happen in unsafe working conditions. For which building employers; as the owners or custodians of construction sites and who are in sole control of working conditions on sites where there is not a strong democratic workers' union organisation with elected shop stewards and not management/union appointed stooges; are entirely responsible.

I'm afraid that without all the other conditions in place which are necessary for a completely safe construction site and indeed industry then hard hats and protective footwear are purely cosmetic, a sop and virtually of no use whatsoever in protecting building workers from death and serious injury.

You state we need permission to visit your sites. I ask you and other building employers who gives permission for the killing and maiming of so many building workers in so called site accidents?

You end by ordering- "Could you please ensure that this does not happen again." I end by asking you and other building employers.

Could you please ensure that there will be no more deaths or serious injuries on construction sites.

Yours sincerely,
Brian Higgins,

c.c. G.Brumwell UCATT General Secretary,
R.L.Lewis UCATT Regional Secretary,
B.E.C.,National Secretary,Head Office.

end of text.}

Support for Republicanism. Building Worker and TU militancy!
There are those who say we are too militant, too political and have no real support in UCATT. So why are the building employers so worried and the union bureaucracy so afraid of us?

At the UCATT National Delegate Conference in Scarborough in June 1998 some of us in 'Building Worker' were having an argument with George Brumwell in the foyer in front of quite a few delegates and a couple of international TU visitors. Brumwell looked at me and said quite loudly in words to this effect: You've no support whatsoever and represent no one but yourselves in the union and you've never tested your support in an election against me because you're frightened to! I said I'd love to stand against you but the control you and the broad left exercise over UCATT Branches means I can never get the ten branch nominations necessary and if I did a selection panel which are always controlled by the general secretary would remove me from the ballot anyway!

However, as fate would have it, the next best thing happened when the election for a place as a representative of the London South East Region on the National Executive Council came up in September 1998. As there are not the strictures on this as there are for the G.S.'s position, I stood for the EC, knowing this was a bit of a litmus test. I stood on a platform that called for a United Ireland and democratic republics in England, Scotland and Wales. Also on the very militant 'Building Worker' industrial platform.

In a three-way contest against two moderate officially favoured candidates I secured 15% of the votes cast in a postal ballot for that EC position. This without being able to mount a real campaign and more or less relying on my election address. This must have given Mr Brumwell serious palpitations and laid the 'lie' to rest that neither the BWG or I had any support in UCATT.

Even we were surprised at the vote for republicanism but this equated with the fact this is quite popular in Britain at large and surely this must be reflected in trade unions UK-wide. No doubt his absolute majesty George II (George Smith was the first UCATT G.S.!) was deeply shocked and perhaps even thought about abdicating. Still his courtiers and flunkeys on the EC would have comforted and reassured him the people still loved him!!

Apart from Hehir discontinuing (isn't legal jargon truly wonderful!) his legal action in January 1999 as already mentioned, there were some developments of real significance in the last couple of years.

EU working time directive & UCATT holiday pay campaign.
From October 1999 Health and Safety Legislation under the European Working Time Directive means that building workers are legally entitled to 20 days holiday paid at the average daily rate and building employers SHOULD have a statutory obligation to pay this. But of course we all know how reluctant building employers are to pay anything to building workers, even their wages at times!!

UCATT mounted a campaign to bring the EU Holiday Pay entitlement to the attention of site workers and to show them how to claim it and encourage them to do so and join the union. A particularly high profile campaign was launched around the entitlement to 11 days holiday pay for the Xmas/New Year 1999/2000 site shutdown.

As with the PAYE campaign we in Northampton UCATT took up the holiday pay campaign very enthusiastically and with union funds and support we took it on to the all-important sites in and around Northampton and Milton Keynes. As we were talking about anything from £70 - £120 per day for many workers then the campaign definitely struck a chord with site workers.

Struck by site manager.
So successful were we in taking the campaign on to the sites that it was definitely upsetting quite a few building employers. So much so that the site manager on the Westleigh site in Wellingborough Road, Northampton, struck me in the chest when trying to stop me and another Northampton member from leafleting the site. The leaflet still went in and I told the manager I'd be back and if he ever attempted to do this to me or any other union official again I'd put a picket on the site and picket it to a standstill. The General Foreman clearly believed me as he apologised profusely for the site manager's conduct and said it was out of order. Some site agents threatened to call the police if I didn't stop leafleting and talking to site workers. I was battering out the usual messages on site after site, canteen after canteen. The employers were obviously worried and the campaign was having quite an impact on site.

You'd have thought I was trying to foment revolution and insurrection. Maybe in future! But all we were doing was telling site workers about their legal right to holiday pay and how to claim it and urging them to get unionised and organised. Once again, I've no doubt Brumwell's phone was ringing non-stop with building employers telling him to stop me going on to the sites or else. Or else what? Check off deals for a start and full-time union bureaucrats are as afraid of democratic site organisation and militancy as the employers!!

We organised a public meeting. It may have been a coincidence but the Regional Secretary forget to put the advert for it in the local paper, after being continually reminded to do so by me, and as a result only a handful turned up. The hand of George Brumwell or a pure accident? I leave you to decide.

But undeterred we organised another meeting and put the advert in the local paper ourselves. This took place on 21st February and between 25 and 30 site workers attended. They told us, as workers on the sites we visited also did, that their bosses had told them if they went to any union meetings, applied for holiday pay or joined the union, they'd be sacked. Mention of the blacklist was also thrown in for good measure. It was to their great credit the numbers who turned up at our meeting did this.

Lewis spoke at the meeting and did a good job and thankfully was a lot livelier and more interesting than he'd been at the PAYE meeting at an earlier date! To our surprise he quite bravely mentioned the fact there had been corruption and corrupt officials in UCATT (as most 'older' site workers were aware) but that it had been sorted out and was now based on a much sounder footing these days. I mentioned some of the corrupt officials were still in the union and they should be chucked out! Our honesty seemed to impress the lads at the meeting as quite a few joined the union at the meeting and some said they'd do so soon. They did. We recruited quite a few into the union with the holiday pay campaign and more significantly held on to them!

Piece de resistance - Byrne Bros - Bovis site Milton Keynes - December 1999.
Undoubtedly we met with our greatest success when Northampton UCATT took the holiday pay campaign on to the massive Bovis high prestige site at Central Milton Keynes Shopping Centre. Two Northampton members worked for Byrne Bros, shuttering contractors on the job. The London and South East Regional Council and the secretary Lou Lewis gave us a lot of encouragement and support.

Historic breakthrough - shop steward elected on Bovis site!!
I addressed an impromptu meeting of chippies and brickies in the canteen on the issue of holiday pay not that long before the Xmas/New Year 1999/2000 break. I got quite a good response. However, absolutely key to the democratic and organisational breakthrough was that one of the Northampton members said he was prepared (and I add brave enough!) to stand for the election of a shop steward to represent the carpenters working for Byrne Bros.

Hehir was the official sent by UCATT (I think it was Brumwell's idea of a joke) and I was invited to the meeting by some of the chippies with the full knowledge and support of the regional secretary. Hehir and I addressed the meeting but Hehir didn't mention the shop steward's position or election. I did and hammered it out (that's my style as you've probably guessed) and emphasised to the 50 or 60 chippies at the meeting that if you elect a shop steward you must also be prepared to stand by him or her through thick and thin. The steward was elected and they also voted to stand by their steward whatever management might try!!

The steward's ELECTION must have sent shock waves through Bovis as they were one of the main villains in the abominable practice of appointing stooge convenor stewards and which appointment UCATT and the TGWU then rubber-stamp. There's also the fact that shop stewards on site in today's building industry is an extreme rarity! The after shock must also have reached the Building Employers Confederation to realise there are still quite a few UCATT members around in the private sector prepared to take a stand for democratic elections and site organisation. They've been so much in control of UCATT and the TGWU they must have thought workers' democracy was extinct!!

Undoubtedly because of the confidence and feeling of solidarity engendered by the meeting and election of a shop steward, 24 UCATT members working for Byrne Brothers applied for tribunals to secure their entitlement to holiday pay. What another breakthrough and just as standing for a shop steward's position it took quite a bit of courage for these 24 site workers to put their heads above the parapet like this in today's building industry.

Shuttering cartel call for meeting with Brumwell and Lewis.
The ELECTION of the steward on the Bovis site and the application of 24 chippies for industrial tribunals to secure their holiday pay forced the shuttering employers cartel (composed of the likes of Byrne Bros., O’Rourke, Harringtons and Michelson) who employ many building workers UK wide, to call for a meeting with George Brumwell and Lou Lewis of UCATT.

More shock, and this time horror, waves! These men and their ELECTED steward on the Bovis site, coupled with individual workers on sites all over the place, applying for tribunals to secure their holiday pay had given UCATT some authority, clout and credibility with the building employers for the first time in many many years. It’s a long time since democratic site organisation had forced building employers to call for a meeting like this!!

We’d like to see the minutes of this meeting but we were told the employers asked Brumwell to back off with the holiday pay campaign, slow down and they’d come to some agreement without going to tribunals and in return they’d ensure they met their full statutory obligations on holiday pay in the future. It’s too much too soon said this bunch of multi-millionaires!! The threat of cancelled check off deals with UCATT must also have hung heavily in the air.

Apparently Brumwell said “No Deal” the 24 applications will go on and we’ll back our members all the way. Such resolve, such steadfastness!! No doubt that as well as trying to see if Brumwell would ‘cut a deal’ the employers were also ‘playing for time’ knowing the longer the tribunals take to materialise the fewer men who normally apply and turn up!

How ‘prophetic’ this proved to be as only 4 men were left when the actual tribunal took place. The ‘deal cut’ with UCATT must have been to drag the process out as long as possible to ensure no one turned up. But four lads were determined this wouldn't happen. All members of Northampton UCATT!!

Enter John Flavin, UCATT member, Employers’ Rep.
As is the nature of the beast, the employers came back at the 24 UCATT chippies in March and April of the year 2000, on two occasions, representatives of Byrne Bros., including Mr John Flavin (Industrial Advisor to Building Employers) went onto the Bovis site in Milton Keynes and called many of these UCATT members individually into their site office and tried to ‘persuade’ them, many felt they were being coerced and intimidated, into giving up their legal rights to holiday pay and industrial tribunals to secure this.... Not so veiled threats of the blacklist were also thrown in.

These UCATT members, as were all others when they found out about it, were especially angry with John Flavin. This as he was on the UCATT Executive Council as late as 1995 and they understood he was still in the union! He is still a member!! When he and the other full-time EC members were removed and replaced by a lay EC by the votes of the UCATT membership in 1995 he stepped into a job advising the building employers almost immediately. Nothing unusual here as fulltime officials often consider part of their role is to advise employers how to deal with ‘awkward’ and militant workers and trade unionists.

This should come as no surprise. He chaired the 1994 UCATT National Delegate Conference in Llandudno at which I was a delegate. When I was at the rostrum speaking after the successful resolution to remove building employers’ representatives from the conference, I turned towards the UCATT General Secretary and EC on the platform and said "There’s still a few employers’ representatives here!" Judging by the round of applause a majority agreed with me!!

Having written this, of course, it is an absolute disgrace and nothing short of scandalous that John Flavin is still a UCATT member. Northampton UCATT Branch charged Flavin with acting against the interests of the union and bringing it into serious disrepute and called for his expulsion under the rules of the union for his reprehensible conduct as a UCATT member at Milton Keynes. Predictably the EC (who are completely under the control of the general secretary) dismissed Northampton’s charge against Flavin and with this the opportunity to deal decisively and incisively with what has been a festering sore within the union for far too long now. This is because they feared Flavin would use the law against the union to ‘defend’ his right to UCATT membership.

There’s also the fact that a lot of present and ex full-time UCATT Officials ‘have so much on one another’ and know so much about past corruption [which is very recent in relative terms] and whatever is ‘going down’ at present that UCATT Officialdom is loathe to discipline any of these in case they ‘spill the beans’. They stick together ‘like shit to a blanket’. Mind you, even a High Court judge would be hard pressed to defend an employers’ representative’s right to belong to the same union as those whose legal rights to holiday pay and tribunals he’s blatantly (and presumably illegally!) trying so hard to remove!!

The two are irreconcilable but of course if workers have to rely on a High Court judge to defend their democratic rights they’re in deep shit!!

Like the ‘Laings Lock Out’ and Hehir’s High Court action, when our rights are under legal attack the law must be fought, then defied if necessary, if UCATT or indeed any form of meaningful and principled trade unionism is to have any future in the construction industry.

Brumwell writes he will use Tribunal to tackle Flavin and Co.
In a letter to Northampton UCATT Brumwell wrote, in an attempt to justify the utterly unjustifiable decision not to discipline Flavin, that the EC intended to use another avenue, other than our charge, to tackle Flavin [and Co] and stated that they would bring the coercion, intimidation and threats of blacklisting to the attention of the tribunal and ask them to tackle the employers about this and this would achieve the objective of our branch.

Our reply was that as a tribunal has no power or authority whatsoever to expel anyone from a trade union then basically Brumwell and the EC were ‘talking’ a load of crap.

August 15th 2000 - Hehir agrees to call employers reps’ to tribunal.
At a meeting of Northampton UCATT on August 15th 2000, called because claimants were worried about lack of information from Hehir about the tribunal, Hehir agreed to process the names of the employer’s representatives to be called to the tribunal and questioned by UCATT over evidence given in statements by claimants of coercion, intimidation and blacklisting. Part of this would include reference to a form from Byrne Bros which the UCATT members on the Bovis site were asked to sign and if they did it stated they had given up their claim to holiday pay. Some signed it, the braver ones didn’t. The UCATT members were subsequently told those who signed it would be given work on the Simmons site in Northampton, those who didn’t wouldn’t.

At the meeting Hehir told me to write a letter to Lou Lewis the Regional Secretary with the employers reps’ names [four from Byrne Bros, one from Bovis] on it and request they be called to the tribunal to be questioned about coercion, intimidation and blacklisting and Lewis would ensure this was done. I wrote the letter but neither Lewis or Hehir processed the reps’ names!

October 16th 2000 Hehir turns turtle over Employers’ Reps.
On that date the ex UCATT shop steward and safety rep for Byrne Bros workers on the Bovis site phoned Hehir and asked him, among other things, if he’d processed names of employers’ reps as agreed on August 15th at the Northampton meeting.

He was dumfounded when Hehir told him he hadn’t as it would be against the claimants interests to do so. In fact it was very much in the employers’ interests not to be called to the tribunal.

Here were building workers, UCATT members, brave and committed enough to give hard evidence and proof of coercion, intimidation and blacklisting by a major building employer, in an industry where this is all too common. Men who thought that challenging, exposing and fighting blacklisting was just as if not more important than claiming holiday pay. Men who genuinely thought UCATT would back them wholeheartedly in this.

‘Fraid not. Here was a full time UCATT official, undoubtedly who couldn’t have done this off his ‘own back’ sabotaging the intent of these brave workers to truly tackle these issues at a tribunal while being very aware of the risks at stake. This after the UCATT Official agreeing to process the names in question at the August 15th meeting in Northampton and the Regional Secretary being made aware of this and undoubtedly the General Secretary was too as he ‘misses nothing’.

We called on the UCATT EC, via the General Secretary to discipline Hehir for this despicable act, thinking….. well if the General Secretary and EC meant what they said about tackling Flavin and the employers’ reps over these issues at the tribunal, as they’d led us to believe then they’d back us against Hehir. Of course they backed Hehir! Spineless B’s and not just for Bureaucrats!! Their actions can only encourage building employers to continue to coerce, intimidate and blacklist building workers. Especially those who respond to an official union campaign and ask for their legal rights as a result . This is treacherous and reprehensible in the extreme.

Three postponements and then preliminary and full hearing.
Byrne Bros were granted three postponements without a whimper or murmer of protest from UCATT. Talk about dragging it out. Yet Lou Lewis told us if the union asked for one postponement they just didn’t get them and in fact one lad had to come back from his holiday abroad as they wouldn’t postpone one! So why no protest at three by the employer?

The preliminary hearing took place near the end of last year to decide if a full hearing was warranted. A bit bloody much after three postponements and waiting over 8 months since claims first made! At this Flavin was the employers’ only representative who gave evidence. During this the chair remarked he found it interesting [which meant surprising] a UCATT member was giving evidence and representing the employers at a tribunal. He could have added against UCATT members. The claimants thought [apart from what a creature Flavin is] the other employers reps should be there but at least Flavin, who was the employer’s main ‘enforcer’ being there and giving evidence from a prepared statement meant he could be questioned by UCATT and the chair at the full hearing which had been arranged for January 15th/16th. OH YEAH!

Tribunal January 15th 2001 in Bedford.
Only four from the original twenty four turned up which meant the delaying tactics nearly worked, but not quite. I was also there. Hehir [who, incidentally the claimants had told the UCATT Regional Council and Secretary they had no confidence in and didn’t want him to represent them, but he was foisted on them anyway] told the four claimants Byrne Bros had made an offer to settle for 11 days holiday pay, for Xmas/New Year holiday period 2000/01, on condition all agreed to offer, drop all other claims, including one for unfair dismissal and not to go into the tribunal. The men were livid and told Hehir to tell Byrne Bros they wouldn’t accept any offer made outside the tribunal, as they could have made this months ago!! With the agreement of the other three one lad said he would accept 11 days as this was all he was claiming for. He was told he’d only get it if the other three also accepted it!

Employers offer and letter ignored by Hehir.
The claimants told Hehir to bring Byrne Bros offer, made immediately prior to it, to the attention of the tribunal as it represented ‘de facto’ proof and recognition of their status as workers and employees. It would also surely form the basis for any settlement and set much of the agenda and ensure the tribunal would decide in their favour in less than two days!!

For good measure Hehir was given four copies of a letter from Byrne Bros dated 18th September 1999 and signed by M.J O’Donnell [Byrne Bros foreman on Bovis Milton Keynes site] which recognises two of the four claimants as Formwork carpenters, mentions them by name, and states the date upon which they commenced EMPLOYMENT with Byrne Bros. Hehir was asked by the claimants to hand the letter out to appropriate people in the Tribunal, such as the chairman and then naturally use it to advance the claims. in fact, he did not bring either the offer made by Byrne Bros or the letter signed by O’Donnell to the attention of the tribunal.

Neither was Flavin called as a witness by Byrne Bros in spite of him being the only one at the preliminary hearing as forementioned. They were allowed to call a Pat Collins, Byrne Bros Financial Director, in his place without a murmur, a word of protest from Hehir. Yet Flavin was the main ‘enforcer’ in the whole long, sad, sorry and disgraceful process!

The Tribunal did not last the two days allocated. It was ended abruptly on the first day by the chairman who said they [on the platform] would use the next day to go through documents and evidence presented to them on the 15th [but not the offer by Byrne Bros or O’Donnell’s letter of course, OH NO!] and decide if the claimants were workers and qualify for holiday pay and if the lad claiming unfair dismissal, as well as holiday pay, was an employee or they were all ‘sub contracted’ to Byrne Bros. The way in which it ended ensured there would be no questioning of the two employers’ reps Collins and O’Donnell about coercion, intimidation and blacklisting which had been referred to by claimants in their evidence. Coincidence, accidental or what? Don’t think so!! We rest our case and like the claimants await the decision of the tribunal at the time of writing. The well oiled wheels of the industrial bureaucrats turn so slowly!!

Lessons learned? Strike when the irons hot!
When I was going round the sites with the UCATT Holiday Pay Campaign before and after the Xmas 2000 holiday period I mentioned the union was telling site workers to go for tribunals and would win these. I also told these workers that the tribunal process was a very long and uncertain one and if they wanted their holiday pay when it was supposed to be in their wages, or as near that time as possible, they’d have to get together, get organised and use their collective strength and at the very least threaten to stop production i.e. go on strike, and if they did then the money would be paid. I also reminded them they would have to do something while they were together on the one job, as men are scattered to the four winds once any particular job is finished.

A few of the chippies, including the shop steward on the Bovis site in Milton Keynes were in favour of going outside the gate to hold a meeting over the holiday pay and telling Byrne Bros if money not in their wages after Xmas/New Year holiday then they’d be faced with strike action. Which is what I advised them to do. Unfortunately they were told by a full-time official not do this and advised to leave it to the officials and a tribunal.

The rest, as they say is history! Some still being made [or is it unmade??] in Bedford.

We will bring the readers up to date with a flyer in the pamphlet once we know the tribunal decision and UCATT’s, and most importantly the claimants, response. If against all the odds and expectations they win the tribunal decision it will be totally in spite of UCATT’s Fulltime Officialdom, who’ve quite brutally, deceitfully and callously let them down, and because of their own courage and determination.


The Northampton UCATT members won their industrial tribunal on March 13th 2001, the written decision informing them that "The unanimous reserved decision of the Tribunal is that: Each of the Applicants is a "worker" within the definition at Regulation 2 (1) Working Time Regulations 1998, and accordingly their claims for holiday pay succeed."
This victory was a fantastic achievement with major implications for building workers everywhere. This was probably why their employers (Bryne Brothers/Merricks) appealed against the decision.

The appeal is now due to be heard on September 18th 2001 at the Tribunal appeals body. Meanwhile the workers fight on to get what they're legally entitled to.