When I wrote the first edition of this pamphlet in February 1996 I built it around the need to intervene in the 'London Joint Sites Committee' [Joint Sites] with a Rank and File [R&F] perspective. I hoped to counter the broad left approach that dominated the Joint Sites at the time when I wrote the original document, on which the pamphlet was based, in 1992 and when the Joint Sites were a real force amongst building workers. I stated then that the political struggle between the broad left and R&F would "determine success or failure for the Joint Sites or at least any chance of success".
The Joint Sites refused to adopt a R&F Strategy and failed miserably. The erstwhile leader of the Joint Sites Mick Dooley is now a full-time official in UCATT, appointed and thus controlled by George Brumwell the General Secretary. Not so much a matter of being sucked into the full-time bureaucracy as he couldn't wait to get the bloody job!
This edition of the pamphlet is not intended for intervention in any specific building workers' struggle or organisation but is meant as a guide for any current or future militant action or union organisation in the construction industry in particular and R&F Organisation in general, as well as being a short history of the Building Worker Group [BWG]. Of course I retain much of the wording of the first pamphlet as it is historically correct and doesn't need changing. I also repeat some of the words used in the foreword to the first edition as they are as relevant today as then, with some slight adjustment as, for instance the Colin Roach Centre/Resistance who originally published the pamphlet no longer exist. - So here goes.
Given that the history of workers' industrial struggles actually written by workers who participated in and helped fashion them is an absolute rarity in all literary circles, I thank RPM for encouraging and enabling me to do this, again! This also helps to combat the industrial and political isolation imposed on me by the blacklist with the economic and social constraints this brings. Not forgetting the effect this has had on my wife and family. Many many years of blacklisting.
I supply the words in this history but above all it is one of a truly collective struggle over a period of 26 years and one that proves the ability of militant rank and file workers and a R&F Organisation to survive against all the odds.... and sods! Writing this is also a powerful way of stating "The bastards will never grind us down"!
I add that over many years the Northampton Branch of UCATT [Union of Construction, Allied Trades and Technicians] has stood four square and immovable alongside the BWG not only in exposing the financial corruption and ballot rigging rampant in UCATT in the 1980's but also in fighting the official cover up of this and the subsequent insidious destruction of democracy this gave and continues to give rise to in the union. We continue to struggle against this and endeavour to counter this into the new century and Millenium! This pamphlet is a tribute and testament to all involved.
Brian Higgins, Secretary of Building Worker Group and Secretary of Northampton UCATT
As with the Foreword the introduction in the original issue of this pamphlet in 1996 was mainly about and meant to relate to the 'London Joint Sites Committee'.
However today, what better way to introduce the second edition of the pamphlet than to notify all that the first edition was among quite a few pieces of 'Building Worker' literature cited by Dominic Hehir the broad left full-time London UCATT Official in the High Court Writ for Libel and threat of an injunction he took out against Brian Higgins as secretary of both the BWG and Northampton UCATT Branch on November 9th 1996.
This was clearly an attempt to silence Brian Higgins and those we represent in the BWG and UCATT. Hehir thought he'd go down in history as the man who silenced us. This is something the building employers and the UCATT bureaucracy have been dying, and on occasions trying, to do for years. Yes Hehir did go down... but to defeat. He humiliatingly withdrew his High Court action against Brian Higgins on January 28th 1999. More on Hehir and the High Court later but neither Brian, the BWG or Northampton UCATT would be silenced by Hehir, the High Court or any of those supporting him including the building employers. We carried on writing and organising!
Freedom of speech and to organise in the construction unions and industry, and in all industries and unions in general, have been won by generations of workers in struggle and are far too precious and important to surrender to those who would remove them - especially a renegade Trade Union official.
Read on to find out why they tried to silence us and what they are afraid of and why we must and will continue our struggle.
John Jones and Kenny Irvine – Building Worker Group