Flying Sparks

Submitted by Tubeworker on 25 November, 1998 - 7:25


Bulletin of Jubilee ‘AEEU’ Strikers

Info from bulletins No.1 + 2 , Monday and Wednesday, 23rd + 25th November 1998

Monday 23rd November

“KINGS CROSS - NEVER AGAIN!” say 700 JLE Sparks striking for safety

We, 700 electricians on the Jubilee Line Extension are still on strike from last week over safety and then victimisation. We cannot afford to compromise. Xmas trees have been ordered for picket lines - just in case!

The Safety AEEU Rep. at London Bridge Station discovered there was no fire alarm protection. 100 workers were not informed of the evacuation. The Safety Rep told the workers and they refused to work until the fire-alarms were fixed. Employers, Drake & Scull’s response was to sack the Rep and 11 other ‘too vocal’ workers from the site. After a series of mass meetings, 500 plus electricians at London Bridge, Waterloo and Westminster sites came out on indefinite strike - until the Jubilee 12 are re-instated and safety guaranteed. We have set up permanent picket lines at the three underground sites.

Then a further 100 Waverley electricians and then another 100 from the Wood Group joined the strike - making it 800 in all.

The mass media have launched a witch-hunt against us, blaming us for sabotage of electrical wiring - when it was impossible for those blamed to ever get near such cables. In fact it was in the interests of Drake & Scull to cut the wiring as they get heavily penalised if they are behind schedule - and so they benefit twice in pointing a finger at us flying sparks.

The AEEU union repudiated the action wanted us all back to work. We refused point blank. This is why maximum support across the unions, the labour movement and the public must be mobilised behind us rank and file strikers.

bulletin 2, Wednesday 25th November


They have declared war against our rank & file power!

650 striking electricians and 75 plumbers stay solid as solidarity grows

We strikers came out over a week ago when the bosses tried to isolate selected rank and file union members from the biggest Jubilee Line Extension (JLE) site at London Bridge.

What began as a dispute over safety fire-alarms, and then over victimisation of the Jubilee 12, has now become an all out attack on our powerful rank & file sparks organisation.

On Monday we proposed to the bosses that we would compromise, and if they needed 12 transfers then it could be done on a voluntary basis - and we would all be back at work on Tuesday. But they rejected this point- blank, demonstrating even more clearly to us all that their tactic was the first salvo in a US-style union-busting onslaught. Becthel, a US company took over general JLE site management 3 months ago, and are responsible for hiring sub-contractors like Drake & Scull (our employers). Bechtel have stood firm behind Scull - and we believe they are behind all this.

The bosses refusal to compromise is in fact a declaration of war against some of the best organised workers in the country - but it is clearly aimed at attacking the working and safety conditions of all the workers on the JLE - because they need to rush through the project in time for that stupid Dome. So corners need to be cut and safety automatically goes out of the window.


Sparks first came in numbers onto the JLE project in February 1996. Inside 6 months the first shop-steward was elected with over 50 Sparks in the union. But we did something unique (and something all other building workers should note): besides paying the union AEEU subs of £1.35p, per week we sparks, by ourselves, set up our own rank & file hardship fund of £2.00p per week!!! The reason for this was that as there’s no sick pay in our contract we needed to do it ourselves - and by god we did it, and it worked brilliant.

We simply call our rank & file body, ‘The Shop’. The AEEU full-timers hated what we did, but we’ve grown from strength to strength, and this financial independence and self collection of funds is important, because today we do many of the activities that unions were originally built to do. The Shop supports our members in hardship; we finance our own rank & file struggles with great success against management attacks; we give money to other causes. Just recently £1,000 to Wigan striking Sparks - we held weekly collections on the sites. Also recently we gave £300 to the rank & file Rail Strike Support Group (defending sacked RMT Rep. Steve Hedley), who ironically have just returned the honour themselves with a hefty donation to our strike fund. Great camaraderie, eh!

By April 1997 there were 200 sparks on the job. A 5-strong Committee of stewards was elected and we held monthly meetings. Three days later eleven Sparks were sacked, including all of the 5 elected Shop Committee. Immediate unofficial (and very illegal!) 100% walkout resulted. As with today, the AEEU repudiated the action, and Drake & Scull sacked all 200 of us. We picketed out every site for a week - and then total victory! All were reinstated!

Since then our rank and file body has had a number of defensive disputes and been very successful, to the point of radically improving our safety and general working conditions. We wish other workers on the JLE and elsewhere would copy-cat our example - as it would strengthen workers everywhere and the trade union and labour movement in general - and we would give full support to their actions!


It is in this context that the present dispute takes place. It may even be the reason why this particular Bechtel company were selected to run the JLE project, considering their anti-union busting experience!? They have been getting quite heavy-handed against all JLE workers on numerous minor issues over the last several weeks - and now - we have this situation.

We do not believe this is an attack on the AEEU officials. The General Secretary of the AEEU seems to prefer talking to managers than to those who pay his wages - us lot. This attack against the rank & file Shop at London Bridge, the biggest of the London sites, is the first salvo against the whole of The Shop spread over 15 sites in inner-London.


We electricians and plumbers are proudly sticking together. We welcome all those workers and others who want to join our picket-lines and rubbish totally all the crap lies in the press and all the ‘red-scare’ stories spread by the lie-machines. We recognise the need to link up with other disputes and to get the support from the whole trade union and labour movement. Also - we would like to thank all those unions, groups and individuals who have supported us so far. Thank you all - let us together turn this important struggle into another victory for us - and for us all.


Join the Jubilee Picket Lines

The Jubilee strikers have picket lines at the three tube stations: Waterloo, London Bridge and Westminster every morning from 7am. We are appealing to all supporters: join our picket lines!


Pass resolutions of support; get people down to the picket lines; rush urgent donations to: ‘AEEU Strike Fund’ - 249 Thorold Road, Ilford, Essex, IG1 4HE.


Pass resolutions of support; get people down to the pickets; rush donations to: ‘AEEU Strike Fund’, 249 Thorold Rd, Ilford, Essex, IG1 4HE.


Flying Sparks! bulletin by Jubilee ‘AEEU’ Strikers 0976 762 040


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