Saturday, 29 October 2011

Round Up Of Wednesdays Protests.......... 26/10/11

Wednesday 26th October

This week saw protests in London, Newcastle, Manchester and Glasgow

London, Blackfriars Station

6:30am and there was a threat of rain hanging over our heads. The crowd started gathering and by 7:00am the crowd had swelled to 300. Once again we were back to say hello to Balfour Beatty at Blackfriars Station.
At this time the contingent from Occupy London Stock Exchange turned up. During the week they had taken the time to make us a extremely large banner with the words 'Power To The Sparks' across it.
Harry Cowap gave a good speech informing us that T. Clarkes lads had elected 5 shop stewards this week and they would have 100% saturation of union membership by the end of the day. AND that T. Clarkes will be balloted alongside Balfour Beatty.
The banner on the march to Cannon Street  Pic: Socialist Worker
Around 7:15 the numbers had swelled to 400 and a vote was cast to march away from Blackfriars and on to Cannon Street for our first visit to Gratte Brothers. We marched the 0.7 miles blocking the road on both sides as we went. Along Queen Victoria Street and then on to Cannon Street. The heavens opened just before we left Blackfrairs and then stopped when we arrived at Cannon Street. After around 25 minutes we arrived at the site. The client for the project is Land Securities and Gratte Brothers are the M&E contractor.

Waiting for our arrival was the sound system and a few more faces from previous weeks. As we neared the site a couple sparks and a couple people from the Occupy London Stock Exchange rolled up the banner and walked onto site. Unchallenged they went past security and climbed the scaffolding on the front of the building. Whilst they were making their way through site we were blocking off Cannon Street out front, much to the annoyance of the police. They had obviously decided early on that they were going to act fast in an blocking of the roads and quite swiftly got very heavy handed in pushing us aside. One person was arrested for refusing to move off of the public highway but I have been informed that he was later released without charge.

This video was sent over to me anonymously.

There were more great tunes being played as well as some more speakers and other unions offering solidarity to the cause. A short while later a Grattes employee appeared on the roof with a hastily made sign saying 'NO JIB CUTS'. After waving to the crowd he disappeared back into site.

At the site gates a couple of the Rank and File stopped one of the site managers for a quick chat. They informed him of what was happening with regards to the contracts and pay cuts, his response was "I'd put the scumbags on £1 an hour if it was up to me."
This Wednesdays protest was going to be elsewhere but due to this dickheads comment we will be paying Grattes, Land securities and Cannon Street another visit instead.

Also the police have informed the union that if the London action continues, they will issue Section 14 Notices under the Public Order Act - which would effectively make any gathering illegal and allow for pickets to be arrested if they continued to protest after the Notice has been served.

So Wednesday 2nd November, 7am , 110 Cannon Street, Gratte Brothers. See you there

Outside Blackfriars Station

Outside 110 Cannon Street with 'All Power To The Sparks' banner

Newcastle Rank and File Report by Ray Smith

60 started the demonstration well before dawn. The site is off a main road.To get to it you have to go down a fairly narrow pathway just wide enough for traffic in one direction. The site is Kier and Balfours is the electrical contractor. At the start the site manager was very unhappy at us demonstrating on private land that we did not have permission to be on. He complained that we were causing a traffic jam on the main road outside the site. Nevertheless we stayed our ground to put our case to those going into work. 20 electricians walked from the site.

Then the police arrived but were fine especially when we had a talk with them about their terms and conditions being undermined especially by the employment of special constables who did the work on a voluntary basis. These police seemed to understand though they did not say so that they were facing the same attacks as every other private and public sector employee.

After an hour or so senior national mangers of Kier AND Balfours arrived. These people were not happy at being stopped by and then forced to drive through a very noisy demonstration but by the time they got onto the pathway into the site they couldn't turn round. After a while we saw them skulking around the site not looking too happy.

We all considered this was a very good demonstration especially as it was in a fairly isolated place, it buoyed people up quite a lot. Although We have still not seen ANY full time official from Unite at ANY of our demonstrations we will continue to invite them at our next demonstration planned for the very future. So we live in hope that we might see a North East full time official. Does anyone know why the North East regional office appears to refuse to its members any help, support or encouragement.

Manchester Rank and File, Courtesy of Hugh Caffrey and the Socialist Party website 

Electrical work at Carrington paper mill again ground to a halt on the Balfours job. Most of the Balfours lads stayed away.
The protests are clearly having an effect on the companies, several of which are increasing the threats to workers of sackings. Despite this, five vans of workers again refused to pass the protest, and numerous other vehicles were turned away after a discussion with protesters about the pay cuts.
Steve Acheson, Unite construction branch secretary and Rank & File steering committee member, told me:
“This was a fantastic result and way exceeded all our expectations. Vanloads of men were turned away while lorries were backed up to the gate all morning. We even stopped the crane, and they had to resort to sneaking in a different entrance! Several electricians from the site joined us on the picket, while senior management at Saica [the company for which the project is being done - HC] told us they’re deeply unhappy with Balfours for being slow and only doing 25% of the work.
“One of the lads on the site was victimised for refusing to cross the protest two weeks ago. He was blatantly victimised because he was replaced straight away. We told management that we would block the road until they agreed to look into the case, and by 9.30am they agreed to do that. We also told them that we’ll be coming back next week and every week indefinitely, even if the pay-cutting and deskilling issue was resolved tomorrow, until this lad is reinstated. It’s important the employers see that we are determined to defend our lads when they’re victimised, we’re resolved that we will get him his job back.”
The Socialist Party has argued for an official strike ballot at the soonest possible date, while explaining that unofficial action from below will be crucial to defeating the employers. The national demonstration on 9th November will be useful insofar as it is a lever to mass strike action, through a huge show of strength to workers and employers.
The ballot at Balfours (BBES) runs from 14-28 November with the first date of strike action on 7 December, the day on which the Seven employers intend to impose the new pay-slashing contracts. Workers will be encouraged and emboldened by the fact of Unite balloting, but there is a real danger that this is too little too late. If or when the employers legally challenge the strike ballot, Unite could be prevented by the anti-union laws from legally and officially striking before the contracts are imposed.
Rank and file protests have pointed the way forwards at each stage despite weeks of prevarication and hostility from the Unite bureaucracy over the summer. While in recent weeks, top Unite officials have said many fine words at London protests, there’s little or no sign of them on the ground elsewhere. Disgracefully, national official McAulay called good activists “cancerous”, when these trade unionists are doing the officials’ jobs for them!
What is needed now is for Unite to match speeches with deeds, mobilise the mass of members in all construction trades to the weekly protests, organise a colossal turnout for 9th November and discuss with activists how this can be best achieved. There needs to be a serious discussion about whether the ballot can be brought forwards. And above all, we need strike action across as many sites as possible at the earliest possible date, whether that is the 7th November or on the 30th November when most public-sector unions intend to strike. The employers are not in a strong position and can be compelled to retreat if decisive action is built, from above and especially from below.
NORTH-WEST: Weds 2 November, 6.30am, Carrington paper mill, Carrington

Some of the protesters blocking the road

Back up of traffic due to blocked site entrance

Glasgow  by Rank and File electrician

There was about 30 of us outside the gate. Wasn't a good turnout. I must say though, rather than aimlessly standing about everyone grabbed leaflets (numerous ones from unite, siteworker, socialist etc) and handed it to the guys heading in through the gate.
In addition we caught the night-shift coming out and leafleted them too. There were 2 police officers there the whole 1.5 hours we were there, not sure what they thought we were going to do. Think the policing is stepping up on this issue, the protest got a mention on Clyde 1 fm with the radio spelling out that "the union have stated this issue will affect all electricians and that means the ones on Glasgow Velodrome too!"

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