Chapter 8: Conclusions - moral to the whole tale?

Submitted by wojtek on March 13, 2013

That full-time union officials and employers have none when it comes to the conduct of business!! I’ve written this pamphlet over a period of 12 months, mainly due to awaiting the result of holiday pay claims, which no one in their wildest imaginations thought we’d still be waiting for over 12 months after the holiday pay campaign began.

But we are sure, like the BWG, site workers will conclude if they want to win any real advances in the building industry and improve their wages and very basic conditions and put a stop to the killing and maiming of site workers which is happening in ever increasing numbers they cannot and must not rely on full-time union officials who are clearly part of the problem and not the solution.

The killing and maiming will stop, the basic wages and life threatening and taking conditions will only improve when site workers get organised and are prepared to take action completely independent from full-time officials. And indeed carry on whatever action they are taking against these officials and employers and whatever else is being flung at them such as legal action – when these officials inevitably tell them to stop that site action and organisation and leave it to them, the officials, and obey the law if used against site action and organisation.

If workers don’t do this then the killing and maiming will go on and the lack of a decent basic guaranteed wage and working conditions, which give rise to the killing and maiming will continue. A hard message and task. Yes, but one which is inescapable.

The famous trade union militant and communist revolutionary of yesteryear James Connolly once said and it’s as true today as it was in the early 1900’s – include full-time officials among the ‘great’!



If you would like to join or contact THE BUILDING WORKER GROUP then write to:-

2 Bitten Court, Lumbertubs, Northampton NN4

Speakers at your meetings can be arranged

Order copies of ‘The Building Worker’ newspaper to sell to your friends

Assistance with organising at work

Help with picketing

If you would like to make a donation towards the group’s work then that would be great

Stop press


Secretary - Brian Higgins, 2 Bitten Court, Lumbertubs, Northampton

December 18th 2001



Within the last ten days four carpenters, members of Northampton UCATT Branch, received the news that their long hard fought battle of 21 months to secure their right as 'self employed' building workers to 20 days paid holiday a year under the European Working Time Directive [E.W.T.D] has succeeded in victory.

This was confirmed when Byrne Bros [Formwork] Limited, shuttering contractors, did not appeal against the Employment Appeal Tribunal judgement of September 18th [although the men were not notified until November 23rd of this decision] to dismiss Byrne Bros appeal against the decision of the Industrial Tribunal held on January 15th this year [2001] which adjudged the four carpenters 'workers' and thus entitled to holiday pay under the terms of E.W.T.D.

This is a tremendous and very significant landmark victory and breakthrough. It was the test case in the UK Construction Industry and it is now 'enshrined' in British as well as European Employment Law that hundreds of thousands of 'self employed' building workers are now legally entitled to holiday pay.

But, of course, workers' rights being 'enshrined' in law is very different from actually receiving what we are 'legally' entitled to. History teaches us workers are not granted rights but have to fight for these every inch of the way. This is especially true in the construction industry as the long struggle of the four Northampton workers proves.

Even then building workers will not get this holiday pay automatically but will have to demand it. They are entitled to 10 days holiday pay, at whatever their current daily rate is on site for the enforced shutdown of the building industry for two weeks during the coming Xmas/New Year 'holiday' period. They can also claim these ten days holiday pay for up to 12 weeks after this shutdown begins, which means till the end of March 2002.

The victory was also a Rank and File one in every sense. The four workers with the support of Northampton UCATT Branch, the London and South East Regional Council and the R&F 'Building Worker' Group, all lay bodies, won in the face of intimidation, coercion and threats of blacklisting by building employers.

Most significantly we also had to fight full-time officials in UCATT, from the General Secretary down, who put as many obstacles in our way as the building employers. This resulted in the 24 workers who originally claimed holiday pay in March 2000 being reduced to four brave Northampton UCATT members by the time of January 15th Tribunal. So much for 'Social Partnership' deals!

The E.W.T.D. as a Health and Safety Law is meant to ensure that workers, not previously legally entitled to holidays with pay, get a break as working all year round without one leads to mental and physical exhaustion which can result in serious injury and even death in so called 'accidents' at work. With the appalling death and serious injury rates on construction sites, 120 deaths were recorded for the period April 2000-March 2001, paid holidays and relaxation this affords can literally be a matter of life and death for some construction workers.

We also ask why stop at holiday pay? Why not sick pay and pension schemes and other employment rights and conditions millions of 'directly' employed workers take for granted? This victory should be used as the basis for a campaign to 'Decasualise the Building Industry' and put a stop to the killing and maiming of building workers in so called site accidents which go hand in glove with the Casual nature of employment in the industry.

But, of course, if building workers wait for the TUC and full-time officials in UCATT, TGWU, AEEU or GMB to mount such a campaign they'll wait and be killed and maimed forever. They'll have to do what the four Northampton UCATT members and their supporters did. i.e. do not rely on or leave it to full-time union officials. The reality is if building workers on site are to win sick pay and pension schemes and a good basic rate of pay for all and Decasualise the construction industry then they'll have to fight both the employers and full-time officials.

In the unions yes, but when it comes to the crunch workers should rely only on their own 'self-organisation' and activity and depend on full-time officials for nothing. Then like the four Northampton building workers victory can and will be achieved.


Update 22/1/2002

Bryne Bros eventually settled with the four claimants, two got £700 each, one £200 and the other £000(?). The company wanted to make this deal outside the Tribunal but all the men insisted that it was ratified in front of the tribunal panel to ensure that Bryne Bros could not wriggle out of any verbal agreement.

This was magnificent victory for these men who were originally told they'd get nothing and who stood against all attempts to coerce and intimidate them including threats of the blacklist.

The cash settlement well and truly cements the 'bigger' victory they won entitling hundreds of thousands of building workers to holiday pay. Needless to say UCATT nationally or regionally has done nothing to advertise this.

This pamphlet will already be out of date once it has been printed. If you would like to be kept up to date with the work of the Building Worker Group then you may be interested to know that it is proposed to create a BWG web-page on the Red-Star research site in the not too distant future. If you would like to be kept informed on this development send your e-mail address to:

[email protected]

or write to:
BCM Box 3328,

Revolutions Per Minute,
BCM Box 3328,

RPM is a radical publishing project that aims to help liberate the working class internationally. This requires a revolution and the replacement of a system based on profit with one based on people’s needs. RPM feels it can best contribute towards its aims by producing pamphlets and sponsoring web-sites such as Red-Star-Research [see below], so as to aid discussion, debate and the distribution of ideas and information. Where appropriate RPM will also help other publishers to distribute their works.

Alongside this RPM will aim to produce a range of quality merchandise such as enamel badges of well-known and loved class struggle heroes, t-shirts, poetry and music.

In time it is also hoped that RPM will be able to help fund struggles and aid those who have suffered from taking part in them.

RPM is funded by sales, donations and from supporter’s standing orders. If you can help in any way with distribution and sales of any publications or merchandise please make contact.

RPM would like to thank the SOLIDARITY FEDERATION who have helped to pay for part of the publishing costs of this issue.

The Solidarity Federation is fighting for a system of Workers’ Self-management of production and the end of the Wages System. Self-management means that workers own and manage the enterprise they work in collectively. Only the workers who do a job know best how to do it efficiently, safely and well. We are opposed to the Wages System because it is the means by which we are paid less than the value of our work, with bosses, shareholders, etc living off the difference.

Instead of the exploitation, we want to create a society based on the principles called Libertarian Communism. This is a society where people contribute to social production according to their ability and, in return, receive back from society what they need for a decent standard of living. We oppose the existence of the state because it exists to maintain the power of the privileged elite of bosses and workers that enrich themselves by the exploitation of our labour. We seek to replace the state with a system of direct democracy in which the people govern themselves.

These long-term aims can only be achieved by organising effective action around immediate issues to force concessions from the bosses and the state. This will enable us to rediscover our power as workers, and use it to change society for good. It is therefore essential for us to fight in the workplace for higher wages, better conditions and to fight redundancies.

Struggle in the community is as important as struggle in the workplace. Those concerned with profit and political advantage control our housing, transport, healthcare, education and childcare. Our environment, food and water are polluted because profits mean more than our lives. Our struggle to defend services and the quality of the environment are vital to the achievement of our eventual revolutionary aim.

We reject the trades union/political party division embraced by both the official Labour Movement and the ‘revolutionary left’. Workers’ organisation must both fight back and work to change society, and its organisational principles must avoid ‘leaders’ and ‘followers’. Political parties seek to take control over the state and become part of the ruling class. They represent the interests of different factions of the middle class not the working class. The Solidarity Federation, therefore, does not seek to form itself into a political party but a revolutionary union. The establishment of revolutionary unions to fight for rights of the workers and the ultimate aim of Libertarian Communism is known as anarcho-syndicalism.

How Revolutionary Unionism Works

All decisions affecting workplace issues are made by Workers Assemblies – regular mass meetings for all workers – with the power to make binding decisions and with control over all committees and delegates elected by them. Everyone who accepts the binding nature of decisions, and takes part in any action has the right to participate in Workers Assemblies. The right to have a say in decisions cannot be bought by payment of union dues [nor denied to those who don’t pay dues but who meet the above conditions]. Class solidarity demands that scabs and management are kept out.

The anti-union laws aim to isolate workers and to force us to fight alone, and we need to attack them by giving and demanding solidarity between workers, by picketing and boycotting. The best form of action to take must be decided by us as workers, based on our knowledge of what will be the most effective. Unlike the established unions we must not allow the anti-trade union laws dictate which action we can and cannot take.

The revolutionary union should not rely on ‘campaigning’, having union officials or politicians plead for them. Neither should it rely on getting middle class journalists to give it fair coverage – militant workers are a threat to the middle class and will not receive fair coverage from the media on any sustained basis. The union must achieve its aims by forcing its opponents to give in through tactics such as industrial action, tax non-payment, rent strikes and occupations. This is Direct Action and it is the guiding principle of revolutionary unionism.

For more information about the Solidarity Federation contact
Solidarity Foundation, PO Box 1681, London N8 7LE.
Telephone 020 8 374 5027 or see

During the recent General Election campaign Haringey Solidarity Group were good enough to publish and distribute a leaflet attacking Louise Christian, a Socialist Alliance Candidate, for her support of Dominic Hehir. They were also organising a public meeting on Health and Safety, with Brian Higgins, as their guest speaker. Haringey Solidarity Group was formed by a collection of individuals from diverse backgrounds involved in the successful anti poll tax campaign who believe the only effective way to get rid of capitalism - a global economic system that values profit above human need and the environment - is by taking action in communities and workplaces, engaging everyone in decision making and practical activities, and building up the skills and confidence to run things without relying on politicians and other self-appointed ‘leaders’.

Haringey Solidarity Group PO Box 2474 London N8
Phone/fax 0208 8374 5027