Rank and file electricians hope to coordinate a national campaign against abuse of agency and casual labour in construction industry
Militant sparks who led a successful campaign against wage cuts and de-skilling in the construction industry have taken to the streets once again – this time calling for direct employment on building sites.
Joining millions of other workers around the world celebrating May Day, activists are keen to start a national campaign to end dominance of agency and casual labour within the industry.
Fresh from defeating the regressive Besna agreement, which leading construction firms tried to force on workers, leading rank and file organiser Alan Keys said sparks were there to “highlight how workers are being exploited”.
“If they [employers] can have agency workers, there is a fear factor – workers are less likely to be involved for fear of the sack.
“It is all down to workers on those sites – we are just trying to help them out and assist them educating agitating and organising.”
Alan Keys went on to say that the Joint Industry Board agreement, which bosses had sought to rip up in favour of Besna, insists upon direct employment but was often ignored by managers.
“The basic rule in the JIB is rule 17 – to employ directly on cards labour and some construction companies have decided they don’t want to do that.”
Remarking on last month’s round of JIB pay talks, he said they had reached “a stalemate” with bosses refusing to accept the rank and file committee representative and blacklisted worker Steve Achieson as part of Unite’s delegation.
Activists describe the action as “payback” from the employers for his trade union activities in the past.
Fellow spark, Frank Morris pointed out that agency workers were not just paid lower rates with limited employment rights but had to pay an “administration fee” to receive their cut price wages.
“Everyone knows they are being ripped off. It is the most bitter thing they talk about on these sites.
“These composite companies [hired by agencies] are charging workers 30 quid a week just collect their wages.
“These employers have never been challenged and if we don’t, the status quo will carry on.”
Despite the rain, passions were raised around 8am, when Unite regional officer Malcolm Bonnett took to the loud hailer to urge workers on neighbouring construction sites to join Unite.
Reverberating around the area and attracting the attention of workers on the sites, he said, “Wise up, join the union and start the fightback.”
“Let’s make this industry a proud one for your kids to come into and for you to work into.”
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