Around 70 rank and file construction workers met in the Mechanics Institute, Manchester on Saturday 17th March to discuss the significant victory against the ‘Dirty 7’ companies and to plan the way forward to end the blacklist, agency working and to stop the bosses war against jobs, pay and conditions.
Speaking from the platform Jerry Hicks and Steve Kelly were given loud applause for their major role in this victory. Jerry explained that the Sparks victory against the bosses attempt to impose BESNA contracts – cutting wages by up to 35% – is an important step forward and has helped to build confidence among construction workers that they can fight back and win. (checkout Priceless victory of sparks against the dirty seven)
But workers at this meeting were also clear that it represents just one victory against the bosses continued drive to maximise their profits at the expense of construction workers and there was a real determination that any trace of BESNA must be stamped out.
One of the important features of the battle against BESNA is how its been rank and file construction workers who have led the struggle from the beginning and put pressure on Unite to eventually put its weight behind the campaign.
The bosses and Unite have now signed a joint statement advocating a ‘modernisation’ of the JIB and of course the bosses will see this as an opportunity to get through most of what they were planning in the first place.
But, despite the economic crisis, the sparks and other construction workers have produced massive profits for BESNA firms like Balfour Beatty and they rightly want improvements in their pay, terms and conditions not workplace ‘austerity measures’. Therefore, the sparks are determined that there will be no BESNA mark2 and why its vital that the rank and file committees continue to ensure that a check can be kept on union officials participating in these or future talks.
Dave Walsh, Unite Plasterers Branch Secretary from Liverpool and others, pointed out that on the back of the sparks victory this was an ideal time to recruit new members and organise the sites and because of the transient nature of the industry a continuous recruitment campaign was necessary. Dave also offered to “organise a Liverpool Trades Council meeting to help push this idea and to build support”.
There is also another immediate reason for such a campaign. The bosses may well try to drag out the talks hoping that the confident mood of construction workers will die down allowing them to push through a BESNA mark 2. But a big public recruitment campaign would help to cut across this.
Andy Bentley, NSSN Staffordshire organiser and Unite Construction Sector member, said, “We have to make it quite clear to the bosses that the longer they drag out the talks or piss about agreeing to the demands of the sparks then the stronger and more organised we will become on the sites with such a campaign”.
Weekly protests will continue outside Manchester Central Library every Wednesday to call on the Labour council to pressure its main electrical contractor, one of the ‘Dirty 7’ – NG Baileys, to stop blacklisting.