The seven construction contractors planning to unilaterally impose their own new agreement (“BESNA”) set 9 January as the new date by which electricians must sign up to the new terms or face the sack.
Unite, the union representing the majority of organised workers in the industry, called off a planned strike in December following the mere threat of a legal challenge and is now emphasising the possibility for members who lose their jobs to pursue tribunals. The abridged article below is by the rank-and-file committee which has been coordinating the resistance to the attack, and is available in full online at bit.ly/w6fgZ5. See jibelectrician.blogspot.com for details of direct actions in the campaign.
The methods of the BESNA seven are outrageous and a disgrace. It is absolute utter blackmail. They say “sign up to BESNA and face a drop in wages by £240 a week or you will be sacked.” Unite officials wouldn’t allow it to happen to themselves, so why are they so lacklustre in fighting for us?
Unite should be giving 110% backing to their members at the coalface, not hiding behind tribunals, which, as we and Unite know, have no powers of reinstatement in the event of wrongful dismissal.
To give ourselves a chance of defeating BESNA, rank-and-file sparks and others have to respond by withdrawing our labour and downing tools. If we don’t, we are finished and the JIB agreement will be gone forever as other firms are sure to follow the rogue seven (who have got all the big work).
Agencies will drop the rates as well. Then other trades will have their wages slashed and NAECI [National Agreement for the Engineering Construction Industry] will be next for the chop. Then it may spread into other industries like the railway maintenance, road works and factories.
We stand at a crossroads, and there are only two directions to go. ‘The road to hell’ or ‘the road to victory’! We face the biggest challenge to construction workers in our living history.
Unite must wake up soon and support their members in a meaningful way (strike action!). Until they do, the rank and file must take on the BESNA seven.
Our class and livelihoods need us more than ever!