As millions of workers took general strike action across big parts of Europe on Wednesday, there was an impressive protest in the morning outside the Oxford St entrance to the Crossrail Tottenham Rd site. Sacked Unite shop steward Frank Morris was joined by Sparks and supporters from London, North West, Wales, Yorkshire, Midlands and Scotland who stopped rush-hour traffic for a while before voting to continue the protest on the pavement when police read the ‘riot act’ (section 14). We encourage our supporters to continue to give support to Frank on his daily protests outside this site or the Westbourne Park Crossrail site 7am-12noon Monday-Friday.
Stop the union busting on Crossrail!
Reinstate the Crossrail 28!
Two months ago to the day, 28 construction electricians working for EIS were sacked on the Crossrail site at Westbourne Park in West London. This was done by the consortium of contractors BFK – Bam, Ferrovial and Kier. BFK have tried to argue that this decision was because of a reduction in work but we believe that it is a blatant act of trade union victimisation and blacklisting. If it’s not, BFK could today give a commitment that these workers would be first in the queue if and when more electricians are needed on the job as stated in national agreements between the unions and the construction companies. The project will take up to 6 years to complete – plenty of time for these workers to be re-engaged!
Two of the sacked workers were Unite trade union reps – one a shop steward, the other a health & safety steward. In the weeks before the sackings, the safety rep was suspended while the shop steward Frank Morris, was ordered to work on his own, isolated from the rest of the workforce. Frank was victimised on the Olympic site in Stratford last year and is clearly now on a blacklist.
Crossrail is a massive infrastructure project that is estimated to cost £15.9billion. One way or another, most of this will come from taxpayers and passengers – that is, you and me! Yet companies getting rich on a publicly financed project can get away with victimisation and blacklisting, which are totally illegal. The government’s own regulator, the Information Commissioner’s Office revealed a conspiracy by 40 of the UK’s biggest construction companies (including Bam and Kier) to illegally deliberately deny more than 3000 construction workers their legal right to secure work. It’s now been revealed that this could be the tip of the iceberg and many more in other sectors could also have suffered. Financial claims are set to be made against these corporations which could total £millions but these illegal human rights abuses continue.
Earlier this year, the ‘Sparks’ – construction electricians – defeated the bosses attempts to drive through a new BESNA contract which would have cut wages by up to 35%. This was done through a 6 month marathon campaign of protests, unofficial walkouts and a threatened official strike in Balfour Beatty. However, since then the employers have been out for revenge to try and re-assert themselves against construction workers. Unite reps in Ratcliffe power station and Grangemouth Oil Refinery were both facing the sack until action by their fellow workers forced their reinstatement. In Ratcliffe, 1600 walked out.
The Crossrail sackings are part of this strategy but as with the BESNA, Ratcliffe and Grangemouth, this can be beaten. The employers understand that a strong union organisation forces them to pay the agreed rate for the job and the most effective way to ensure workers have the best health and safety protection. While this is vital for workers, to the bosses it eats into their profits. That’s why construction workers, whether they be on Crossrail or elsewhere have to continue the fight to reinstate the sacked Crossrail workers. Alongside the daily and weekly protests in London and around the country, we have to get everyone on the sites into the union http://www.unitetheunion.org/my_unite__join_online/join_online.aspx . Unite should grasp the opportunity that is Frank’s two month campaign which is building the union’s profile. Union organisers should be attached to the protests to sign up members and organise the sites. With increased union strength comes the power to insist that management comply with agreements, including reinstating the Crossrail 28.
The campaign goes on! Solidarity with the sacked Crossrail workers!