Latest demonstration comes as Unite begins ballot at Balfour Beatty, accused as “ringleader” of 7 employers threatening “sign or be sacked” contracts imposing 35% pay cuts


Militant sparks successfully closed the main gates of the Farringdon Crown House building site in London following management’s refusal to recognise the union, Unite.

Wednesday’s action is the latest in the three-month campaign originated by rank and file activists against the threat by seven breakaway construction companies to cuts skills, safety and pay levels across the industry.

Further protests took place during the day in Liverpool and Middlesbrough, where dozens of workers at the Corus plant had taken part in an unofficial walkout on Monday.

Demonstrating outside the half-completed London Crossrail site, Unite protesters padlocked the gates before shocked construction bosses had it removed.  But in a show of solidarity, up to 100 workers from the site refused to cross the unofficial picket with lorry drivers honking horns in support.

Construction workers who stayed off the job were keen to speak about the day’s events but were fearful of management reprisals if they spoke to the media.

One anonymous worker welcomed the Sparks campaign and the official ballot of Balfour Beatty construction workers. But he added: “The Unite leadership need to call a national ballot and get everyone out.”

The union begins a 2-week ballot today of some 1,000 employees at Balfour Beatty for strike action against the threatened imposition of the “sign or be sacked” contracts on 7th of December.

Another expressed his frustration at the political ineptitude of the Labour Party leadership and Ed Miliband.  “The union gave Labour thousands of pounds and told the members he is our man, he should be down here supporting us.”

Entering its 11th week, the sparks campaign has been to highlight 35 percent pay cuts and de-skilling in the construction industry.

Sources told UnionNews numbers at the protest were slightly down on previous weeks’ unofficial actions, blaming colder winter weather, however they say the mood remains upbeat, with discussions taking place about what to do next.

Rank and File committee member Ian Bradley told demonstrators and workers that solidarity with public sector workers and students remained key to the Sparks’ objectives.

But former Ucatt general secretary contender Mick Dooley hit a more critical note, reminding workers of the limits of demonstrations alone: “We need to stop the job and stop production.  Don’t think you are not having an effect because you are. You are the spearhead of this movement and building workers are watching all over the country.”

Unite regional officer, Harry Cowap, said: “London construction workers are determined to defend their livelihoods against this unprecedented attack on their skills and pay.

Following today’s action, rank and file organisers told UnionNews that Crown House  has recognised one of two union stewards elected by site workers at Farringdon. They say they will continue to push for the other rep to be recognised by the company.  They are also seeking authority for report-back meetings with all workers on the site to put the union’s case.

Further actions in the campaign are scheduled for the coming days, including a march and rally in Glasgow city centre on Saturday.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License.
Author avatar