Campaign follows widespread rank and file complaints that employers are ‘cherry picking’ rules on agency work


Unite has launched a national campaign named: ‘Play by the rules’, designed to police key agreements on construction sites across the UK.

It follows a meeting of the ‘combine group’, including rank and file sparks reps, which was formed following the success of the BESNA campaign earlier this year.

(Pictured: rank and file sparks leaflet construction workers outside Glasgow Southern General Hospital, March 2012)

The new campaign is a response to reports from rank and file activists in recent weeks that employers are ‘cherry picking’ parts of long-standing agreements, while ignoring those rules they dislike.

Unite says the companies’ behaviour has resulted in workers not receiving the correct rates of pay, as well as allowing greater use of agency labour.

The combine meeting heard details from newly-elected group chair, Jim Harte, of a successful recognition campaign, spearheaded by rank and file activists, at the £180m Southern General Hospital site in Glasgow.

The campaign combined workplace leafleting with high-profile political lobbying and culminated in the intervention of senior members of the SNP government to secure the recognition and access agreement with the main contractor, Brookfield.

Bernard McAulay, Unite national officer, said: “Unite will no longer stand by and accept some employers ignoring the rules that protect our members

“The agreements state quite clearly that employers should make every effort to offer jobs on a directly employed basis and it is unacceptable that employers are flouting this and bringing insecurity and casualisation to the industry.”

Some activists believe any new official campaign to try to reduce the spread of agency working may require rank and file activists to re-start the kind of confrontational tactics used during the 6-month BESNA dispute.

“We need to make the companies nervous again,” one activist told UnionNews.

“They need a fear of the unknown before they’ll pay attention, so we should start building up teams of people to police the sites.

“We need to make sure the employers don’t know what to expect.”

The launch of the ‘Play by the rules’ campaign follows a disagreement during pay talks with two employers bodies, the ECA and SELECT, which had refused to accept a leading anti-blacklisting campaigner on Unite’s negotiating team.

Unite says it will not allow the employers to dictate to the union who will sit on their elected delegation, but officials believe they are close to reaching a resolution on this issue.

Unite also accuses the employers of stalling on broader negotiations on the future of the construction industry, which the major companies – such as Balfour Beatty – had agreed would follow the end of the BESNA dispute.

The combine group is pursuing further grievances with several employers, ranging from redundancy procedures at Balfour Beatty and Crown House operations at Heathrow’s Terminal 2, to what rank and file activists say is the ‘victimisation’ and 6-week suspension of an elected health and safety rep at the Ratcliffe power station in Nottinghamshire.

A full meeting of the national rank and file committee is planned for this Saturday (26th May) in Liverpool.

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