Electricians strikes

Bosses back off but we still can’t trust the unions!

After six months of struggle against the BESNA agreement which would have meant pay cuts of up to 33%, serious deskilling throughout the building industry, and unemployment for all those refusing to sign the new contracts, the electricians have forced the bosses to back off. Following a failed injunction against an imminent official national strike called by the Unite union, the main BESNA signatory, Balfour Beatty, announced that it was dropping plans to bring in the BESNA agreement, and most of the other firms involved have now followed suit.

Illusions in the unions will lead to defeat

For 5 months electricians have been demonstrating and picketing in order to build resistance to the new Building Engineering Services National Agreement (BESNA) conditions, involving a deskilling and reduction of pay by 35%. Yet in spite of their effort the sparks are more and more frustrated that the struggle isn’t developing, knowing that the present level of action is no-where near enough to defend their current pay and conditions.

Sparks: don’t let the unions block the struggle

Electricians have been protesting against the proposed 35% pay cut for 4 months. Vociferous early morning protests in London, Manchester, the North East, Glasgow and elsewhere, blockading or occupying building sites run by the 7 firms trying to impose a change in pay and conditions, a demonstration in London on 9th November coinciding with the students and wildcats and blockades of sites on 7th December.

Sparks leaflet

Unions and police are two arms of the same state

On November 9, 10,000 students marched in central London, spurred on by the mounting cost of education and a will to fight the government’s programme of austerity. Recalling last year’s student demonstrations, the demonstration was treated not to the kettle, but to the ‘sock’, a kind of mobile kettle, where marchers were herded down a prescribed route. A group of striking electricians started to move towards the student march and were met by a police line.

Electricians: solidarity across industries is key

There is no doubting the level of the attack on electricians’ jobs, pay and conditions involved in ending the Joint Industry Board agreement, which will lead to cuts of up to 35% and many jobs reclassified as semi-skilled or unskilled. Go to any of their weekly protests outside various construction sites, or read their discussion forums, and you’ll hear just how disastrous it would be for workers already doing long hours of overtime in order to be able to afford house, car and necessities.

Electricians’ actions hold the promise of class unity

The world economic crisis has hit the construction industry very hard. The Office of National Statistics Bulletin for the 2nd quarter 2011 says that the total volume of new orders for building contracts is at their lowest level since 1980. Faced with this slow-down, one of the major UK Construction companies, Balfour Beatty Engineering, issued 90 day notices of termination to some 890 employees on the 14th September. 7 other major electrical contractors also announced their intention to withdraw from the national industry agreement, proposing to split electricians from one grade – where they’re paid £16.25 per hour – into 3 grades ranging from £10.50 to £14 per hour. For those downgraded to £10.50 this will amount to a 35% pay cut. There was an immediate reaction from the workforce, with co-ordinated unofficial action taking place at several major construction sites across the UK.

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