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Blacklist 181113

Blacklist 181113

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Blacklist 181113
Blacklist 181113

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Published by: pastetable on Nov 18, 2013
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11/23/2013

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www.socialistworker.co.

uk

After BESNA and Crossrail victories...

HE RECENT trAGIc DEAtH of Richard Laco on the Laing O’Rourke’s Francis Crick Institute site in central London is a stark and sad reminder what construction workers are up against. As Unite says deaths and injuries are often the result of poor health and safety standards driven by companies cutting corners in the interests of profit. One important protection against this is union organisation—ensuring there are health and safety reps on the sites. But there is a long history of union reps being victimised for raising health and safety concerns. For years now, part of the impact of the construction blacklists has been the erosion of health and safety standards on site. This is coupled with a vicious assault by the Tories on the Health and Safety Executive.

WE CAN BEAT THE BOSSES’ BLACKLIST
T

Frank Morris won reinsatement

Albatross

Cameron has described health and safety as “an albatross around the neck” of British business. Try telling that to anyone who has lost a loved one because the bosses’ ruthless pursuit of profit meant that they lost their life. The Construction Safety Campaign is right to raise its slogan, “People before Profit”. And it is also right to say we can’t just mourn these losses, we have to organise—“Remember the dead and fight for the living”. Today’s TUC national “Own Up! Clean Up! Pay Up!” day of action over blacklisting is a brilliant step forward and its a great opportunity to push the politicians and the bosses to deliver the justice that workers deserve. The fight back on the construction sites has taken some very important steps forward over the last few years. Three interwoven gains for the unions need to be celebrated—but more

importantly their lessons have to be spread. •Frank Morris’s reinstatement on the Crossrail project is an important victory. Frank, a blacklisted electrician, was sacked along with everyone else working for the contractor―EIS. He was sacked after he had raised health and safety concerns on the site. Unite engaged a big campaign for his reinstatement.

Reinstatement

Over a thousand protests took place around the country and even in other countries where the consortium members—Bam Ferrovial Kier—hold contracts. His reinstatement is a huge concession from the bosses who are currently in charge of what will be Europe’s largest construction project. But this is not just about one worker’s job—though that would be reason enough to celebrate. Frank’s victory opens the door to a union recruitment and organising drive

across the whole project and that must be urgently taken up. •The Blacklist Support Group has made the issue of blacklisting a political hot potato. For years it seemed that thousands of blacklisted construction workers would never again work in the jobs that they were trained to do—just because they were active union members who fought the bosses’ attacks. Now it seems that there is hope of justice. But these big construction companies seem reluctant to pay up for their crimes. Under pressure the companies announced they were setting up a compensation scheme but when the Blacklist Support Group met the companies it was clear that this was a fig leaf, a press stunt. BSG representatives rightly walked out. Justice means full compensation not a token. But more than that—it means the guarantee of the right to work. •By far the best way to put

pressure on the bosses is to fight for organisation and to use militant tactics. The 2011-12 BESNA dispute, which stopped eight multinationals in their plans to slash wages and deskill jobs did exactly that. Site occupations, unofficial walkouts and protests at company offices pushed Unite to call official protests and a strike ballot of Balfour Beatty employees which threatened closure of the Grangemouth oil refinery and forced the company to back down.

Victories

For all the problems of organisation and the impact of blacklisting, construction has seen victories that can begin to transform the situation on the sites. At a time when the Tories are pledging ‘permanent’ austerity these are victories that can give hope to millions of people who want to see resistance to a government that is forcing people, for example, to make the horrific choice of ‘heat or eat’. Crossrail and BESNA both show that the unions can fight and win. Firefighters, teachers, probation service workers and university workers have also recently held big well supported strikes. Where the unions give a lead and call for action there is usually a brilliant response.

Protesting at Grangemouth

together in defence of Unite. We also have to ask serious questions about what happened at Grangemouth. Len McCluskey, Unite general secretary said at the recent Unite sector conferences, “Naturally, we will try to learn lessons from what happened at Grangemouth just as we analayse our victories elsewhere.”

Leverage

Grangemouth

The fallout from events at Grangemouth Oil Refinery, however, are cause for concern. Cameron and the right wing media are now gunning for Unite. We can give no quarter to the argument that Unite are bullies―it’s the likes of Jim Ratcliffe and the blacklisters who are the bullies. The Tories now want to use this to drive through even more anti-union legislation and have launched a ‘review’ of union practices. Unite is right to say no trade unionist should collaborate with it.We have to stand

Once the Ineos boss, Jim Ratcliffe, sniffed weakness when Unite pulled back from the strike he saw an opportunity to drive through a raft of attacks—a pay freeze, attacks on pensions and a no strike agreement. It didn’t have to be like this. A call for a site occupation could have won solidarity, not only in Britain but around the world. A demand for nationalisation could have put pressure on the Scottish and Westminster governments. A full leverage campaign by Unite at other Ineos sites around the country including site blockades, calling for solidarity from tanker drivers could have put Ratcliffe under massive pressure. None of these things are pie in the

sky. The Scottish government recently nationalised Prestwick airport when the New Zealand based owner walked away and no buyer could be found. The 1971 work-in at Upper Clyde Shipbuilders electrified the trade union movement and won widespread support and saved 6,000 jobs. We can’t afford more Grangemouths we need more victories like Crossrail, BESNA and the victory over zerohours contracts by bakers in the BFAWU union at Hovis in Wigan. We have to build up rank and file organisation so that we can continue to push the unions and build on the official calls to action as they are made. Now is the time to build on the victories through recruitment to the union and site organisation. For example, Frank Morris’s reinstatement has opened the door to a fight to unionise the Crossrail project.

Crossrail

Done right Crossrail could be a project that sees construction workers use their strength―our collective ability to organise and use militant tactics. That’s the approach we need on sites around the country―so that the bosses don’t have it all their own way.

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Electricians181113

National Construction Rank and File meeting Saturday 23 November 12noon-3pm The Mechanics Institute 103 Princess Street Manchester

Return to SW industrial, PO Box 42184, London, SW8 2WD e-mail industrial@swp.org.uk or phone/text 07986 936094

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