Industry and workers
Cinema workers at the Ritzy cinema in Brixton have announced 11 April as the date for the first strike in their dispute over pay.
Members of BECTU at the cinema have conducted a long-running campaign to win the London Living Wage of £8.80 an hour. The typical hourly rate at the Ritzy is currently £7.24.
Workers voted to strike by an 85% majority.
Sparks win contract fight
Electricians working at a Network Rail construction site in Three Bridges, Sussex won new contracts following a wildcat strike on 4 April.
Plumbers and heating and ventilation engineers in the Unite union have overwhelmingly rejected a below-inflation pay offer, with their union threatening to move to an industrial action ballot unless the offer is improved.
The Building and Engineering Services Association (BESA) is offering a two-year deal with a freeze in the first year and a 1.5 percent increase in the second year, despite what Unite calls their “healthy profit margins and order books”. Workers rejected the deal by a margin of nine to one.
The attempt by the UK’s major construction contractors to impose a new collective agreement for mechanical and electrical construction workers has collapsed after the remaining six companies followed industry leader Balfour Beatty Engineering Services in performing an embarrassing u-turn.
Electricians working for Balfour Beatty Engineering Services have voted by 81% to take strike action in their battle against their employer’s attempt to unilaterally withdraw from the Joint Industry Board (JIB), the body which oversees union-negotiated pay and conditions.
Four hundred workers took part in a protest on Monday 26 September at the Lindsey Oil Refinery as the campaign against the plan by eight big contractors to cut pay for construction electricians continues.
The 400 included some workers from West Burton and Saltend who had taken wildcat strike action to join the protest.
Protests were also held at the Manchester Town Hall construction site and the Tyne Tunnel site in Newcastle (where the tunnel was briefly blockaded) on 22 September.
By a supporter of the Site Worker paper
The UK’s major electrical and mechanical contractors have launched an unprecedented attack on collective bargaining by attempting to unilaterally impose a new agreement on the industry.
The contractors, which include industry leaders such as Balfour Beatty, wrote to workers in late July announcing their intention to impose new agreements.
More information has filtered out about the defeat of the locked-out engineering construction workers at the biofuels site being built at Saltend, near Hull, by the BP-led consortium Vivergo.
The Saltend workers’ dispute has come to a frustrating end after nearly three months.
The 400 locked-out construction workers failed to win back their jobs at the refinery site in Hull after their employer Redhall Services Ltd was axed by the Vivergo consortium.
Vivergo has improved the payout it was offering workers, and most have now accepted. Certainly, it would not have done that without sustained picketing at the site and other action elsewhere.
Saltend workers demonstrated outside Hull Magistrates’ Court hearing on 17 May for GMB national officer Phil Whitehurst who was arrested on a picket on 4 May.
Whitehurst had been taking part in the regular pickets over the lockout of 430 workers from the failed £200m Vivergo Fuels Ltd bio-ethanol fuel plant project.
A senior GMB union official was arrested on 4 May as police stepped up their attempts to break up protests by locked-out workers at the Saltend biofuels plant construction site.
Workers have been demonstrating since 14 March, when their employer — Redhall Engineer Solutions — had its contract with Vivergo, the BP-led consortium building the plant, terminated.
In our article on conditions in engineering construction (Solidarity 3-166) it was not unambiguously clear that employers are not using the Posted Workers Directive as such to attack workers. Rather they have used loopholes in the Posted Workers Directive created by recent European Court of Justice rulings. (We said the Directive had been “amended” by the court).
An audit demanded by Unite and GMB unions into the pay of workers building a new gas turbine power station at Staythorpe in Nottinghamshire has showed that a sub-contractor (Somi) is paying its Italian workers less than UK rates for the job —by an average of 1,300 euros a month.
These workers are “posted workers” — sent by their employer to work in a different country on a temporary basis. Unions believe these workers are being used to undercut wages and conditions in the industry.
Workers and union officials in the engineering construction industry long suspected it, but now they have proof. Sub-contractors in the industry have been paying some "posted workers" (workers who are sent by their employer to work in a different country on a temporary basis) substantially less then nationally agreed rates for the job.