Electricians working for Balfour Beatty Engineering Services struck on Wednesday 7 December, the date on which new contracts which could mean a 35% pay cut for many workers were introduced by seven of the construction industry’s biggest contractors.
Thousands of workers across the UK took action, shutting down or disrupting work on BBES sites across the country. The strike was reported 100% solid on flagship sites like the Blackfriars station redevelopment in London.
The strike was all the more significant because the workers’ union, Unite, had postponed the official action following a legal challenge from BBES bosses. An 81% vote for strikes had been overturned following an action by bosses questioning the legality of the ballot. Union lawyers said that, had the case gone to court, Unite would have lost. The union promised a re-ballot “before Christmas”, but workers took matters into their own hands by going ahead with the strike anyway.
An AWL member who visited the Blackfriars picket lines said: “Most if not all of the sparks were out today, numbers on the picket line this evening were around 40 and were still reeling from police violence in the morning. There was a strong City of London police presence. Some other trades [non-electricians] went to work but were loudly heckled by pickets. The picket succeeded in turning away a refuse truck and two minibus-loads from other sites.”
Workers also protested at Balfour Beatty’s London headquarters and at offices and sites of some of the other contractors involved in the attack. Workers walked off a Gratte Brothers site in Victoria, London, and occupied a construction site in Cambuslang, near Glasgow.