Trade union activists and members of the Blacklist Support Group protested outside the offices of Morgan Stanley in London today, in support of a sacked Unite activist.

Protesters outside Morgan Stanley

Protesters outside Morgan Stanley

The Unite rep, Graham Boxhall, was sacked for demanding that the agency electrical contractors – “Sparks” – he represents be employed directly.

The Sparks took their protest direct to the bosses at Canary Wharf, the spiritual home of finance capital, and won: Boxhall has been reinstated and Unite are now in negotiation with the company to have all agency workers directly employed.

The Sparks were working at Morgan Stanley Investment Bank in Canary Wharf for D&D, a subcontractor for Phoenix Electrical. Phoenix are registered with the Joint Industry Board (JIB) industrial agreement for the electrical contracting industry. Under JIB rules, all labour on site should be directly employed.

Blacklist 2

Boxhall asked for direct employment under the terms of the JIB, was elected as a union rep and sacked the same day.

“It happened after I was made spokesman for other union members, I went back to the site and was told by my manager that I was sacked,” he said.

“When I asked why, I was told I was incompetent, and that my work was no longer needed.

“I asked if it had anything to do with my involvement in the union, and they said it had nothing to do with that.”

Despite a High Court injunction against the protest, the demonstrators formed a chain and blocked the entrance where construction workers entered, and explained that a union rep had been sacked. This resulted in a stand off with police, security and management with approximately 30 workers refusing to cross the picket line.

The London sparks were supported by comrades who travelled down from Teeside and Liverpool to support them.

Sparks have a proud tradition of using direct action and civil disobedience to defeat employers’ attempts to undermine terms and conditions in the construction centre, after defeating Balfour Beatty and seven other major employers from withdrawing from the NAECI national agreement in 2012, and earlier wildcat action against the use of posted workers at the Lindsey refinery.


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Walton Pantland

South African trade unionist living in Glasgow. Loves whisky, wine, running and the great outdoors. Walton did an MA in Industrial Relations at Ruskin, Oxford, and is interested in how trade unions use new technology to organise.

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