The UK construction industry seems set for an autumn of strikes. 500 rank & file construction workers from around the country voted unanimously to organise a series of unofficial wildcat strikes in opposition to the 35% pay cut proposed by the construction employers. Major projects such as the Olympics, Media City Manchester and large power stations could be disrupted by the unofficial action.
The main issue is the pay cuts announced by 8 major contractors set to take place in March 2012, following their decision to pull out of the nationally negotiated industry agreement. The proposals would mean 3 new grades for electricians: metalworker £10.50 per hour, £12 for wiring, £14 for terminating. At the moment, electricians Joint Industry Board (JIB) rate is £16.25p per hour across the board. For the worst hit this amounts to a 35% pay cut.
The historic meeting held in Conway Hall London was organised by union activists from London and the South coast linked to the rank and file Site Worker magazine. The assembled electricians and pipefitters sent a clear message to JIB/HVCA employers and UNITE the union that they will not accept the deskilling of their trade or the pay cuts to their national agreements. The last time the electrical contractors attempted to cut wages by de-skilling the electrical trade in 1999 it provoked a series of wildcat strikes on the Jubilee Line, Royal Opera House, Pfizers and power generation projects across the UK.
Conway Hall was packed standing room only. The meeting heard excellent speeches about the attacks on wages and the attacks on union activists because of the notorious Consulting Association construction industry blacklist. The meeting agreed that it was time for everyone present to stand up and fight these attacks all the way to spread the word on sites and in their workplaces. It was not about blaming overseas migrant workers, it was our fight it we must be united, disciplined and determined. The battle begins right here right now, we must win this fight future generations are depending on us.
The meeting made is clear that the idea of forming a new union should not be considered it had had been tried in the past with EPIU, now we are back in the same union we are far stronger.
The crowd chanted and the mood was electric biggest meeting since the days of the Jubilee Line.
A motion was passed unanimously that unite must ballot members who are working for JIB firms who have been told that the terms & conditions will be changing in March 2012 immediately and a campaign must be set up by unite distributing leaflets to all sites around the country opposing these attacks on our industry and to have regular feedback to the members.
It was agreed to call for unofficial action asap on large sites and that other sites should come in solidarity, rather than wait for a ballot , this would put the whole issue out in the open.
A national rank and file committee was elected
Moving forward there is a UNITE stewards meeting in Leeds 17th August and delegated leaders from the newly elected national rank and file committee will be going armed with the motion and a mandate from 500 people.
Further rank and file meetings will be held around the country in the coming months in Manchester and Liverpool and also other areas . This new movement is on a high and we can spread the mood around the country and throughout construction, there will be attacks on other trades too we should try and build things involving UCATT and GMB members as well.
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'This meeting calls on the Unite Executive Committee to withdraw from JIB pay talks immediately whilst employers are contemplating deskilling.
We further call upon the EC of Unite to ballot for industrial action all those workers who have been informed of pending changes to their contracts.
This meeting calls upon our union to set up a campaign of mass resistence to these attacks on the JIB agreements.This should also include the organisation of protest marches and demonstrations on all large construction sites, ECA and JIB offices.The union should also leaflet all the main sites around the country alerting the members about these attacks.This national campaign should also include Unite sponsored MP's as well as site stewards, branch organisers, branch secretaries and rank and file members.
Regular report backs should be made about progress of the campaign at monthly branch meetings,activist meetings, and by letters to members to keep them all fully informed'.
The committee is made up of two Electricians, two Fitters, one Civil Electrician and one Electrical Engineer. This is OUR committee, not Unites, not the companies. Two members of the committee took this motion on our behalf to the National Unite meeting in Leeds on the 17th August.