A 7AM start in the freezing cold and driving rain did nothing to dampen the turn out ‘The Cheesegrater’ building site. The protest at the Laing O’Rourke run site was the beginning of Thursday’s TUC National Day of Action on blacklisting in London.
Laing – O’Rourke was the natural choice to begin protests given this company is a notorious blacklister. Despite grudging movement from other big construction companies towards greater cooperation with union Laing O’Rourke continues to bar union official from their sites.
The Unite leverage team along with the famous ‘Scabby Rat’ were out in full force along with rank and file construction workers and supporters from the labour movement, including NSSN supporters.
The protest blocked Leadenhall Street, one of the main routes through the City of London, for over half an hour, causing serious disruption and a tense stand-off with City of London police. The blockade only finished when a prison van arrived and police started to draw their batons!
The protest then moved on to the site of the new Francis Crick Institute building. This site is also run by Laing O’Rourke and was the scene of the tragic death of Richard Laco. Speaker after speaker, many of them blacklisted workers made clear that a union organised site is a safer site. Speakers were adamant that Laing-O’Rourke’s failure to cooperate with unions on the site to install a proper safety regime contributed to a dangerous work environment on the site.
The day ended with a large gathering at Parliament Green that included GMB General Secretary Paul Kenny, Unite Assitant General Secretary Gail Cartmail and other senior union leaders. Steve Gillan from the Prison Officers Association also joined the protests in solidarity. His own union were also lobbying MP’s over prison privatisation.
The lobby then marched as a body over to Parliament where a lively meeting on fighting the blacklist was held.
Trade unions, in particular Unite, have come in for strong criticism and attack from the media and establishment politicians recently. The big turn out from rank and file workers show the determination to fight hard-nosed employers has not been diminished. The fight to build strong unions on site and destroy the blacklist is far from over.