Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Did We Get Too Close To You Mr. Gratte?

The day that the M&E dispute arrived, literally, on the employers doorstep.

In London this morning at 6:30am it was bloody freezing. And no doubt it will get even colder yet but we will still be there.

We started off outside of Kings Cross Station. There were plenty of speakers. Unite officers came to speak to give us updates on what has been happening this week. The fact that Crown House now recognise the Shop Stewards on Farringdon. Also the fact that Bernard McAuley (Unite National Construction Officer)was waiting for representatives of the seven companies at a pre-arranged meeting on Friday night. Only for them to not turn up.

We blocked off the site entrance and there was quite a bit of pushing and shoving from the police. WHO this week turned up all kitted up with Tasers. Very strange choice considering that there have now been 14 weeks of protesting and ONLY ONE arrest.

At this point the crowd had grown to over 250. It got to 7:20 and it was decided that we go round the back of the site and block off the delivery gate. When we got there, we found a very thin blue line. Around 10 police in all. So instead of trying to block the gate where the police were. We decided to block the road off that leads to the gate (Goodsway Road). Nice long tailbacks of lorries and vans. After a while there we then marched up the road and blocked off the main junction near the site (Goodsway/York Way). Still a small amount of police and no back up arriving.

It was then pointed out that the Shepherds Engineering Services head office was around the corner (Crinan St). So off we went. Give them a nice morning wake up. After arriving we realised that they are not big enough to have their own office and they actually rent a floor in the office block. A quick discussion followed and was decided to go pay Gratte Brothers a visit around the corner. So off we marched again.

Down Wharfdale Road and Caledonian Road till we arrived at the destination. Grattes Office.

As we were approaching it was pointed out that someone was just going through the security gate. So we followed. Around 100 of us got through before the gate closed. We carried on across the court yard and into the reception area. We were met with a very hostile man in full chef whites and a hysterical receptionist who kept shouting "I understand, but you cant be here".

The chef started pushing the people at the front to try and get us out and then three rather portly balding gentleman came charging down the stairs shouting "get out or we'll 'ave you". They got to the bottom of the stairs and joined the chef in trying to push us out. We then tried to point out that the door was locked and we cant get out. At this point a female member of the protest was knocked over by the chef still trying to push us through a locked door. More men came down stairs to stand and puff their chests out.

Eventually they realised that we couldn't go anywhere and backed off. The whole time this was being watched by a member of the Metropolitan Police through the window.

An electrician then asked to speak to a member of management so we could ask them some questions concerning BESNA. Due to receiving no response he then got out a pen and started to sign the visitors book. Luckily he looked up just in time as a fist came over the banister and nearly caught him on the side of the head. This action caused a bit more pushing and shoving which once again calmed down. The man who threw the punch was hastily moved upstairs.

Once again we asked for someone to speak to us about BESNA. Still silence.

A member of the Metropolitan Police then arrived in the reception area. He pointed out to us that as we have not caused any criminal damage, have not been violent or threatening, have not gained entry illegally there is not a great deal he can do apart from ask us nicely to leave.

Still no one would speak to us. Untie Officer Malcolm Bonnet let his feelings on BESNA be known to our audience on the stairs. We also had a brief history of the Shrewsbury Pickets.

We decided that we had been there long enough and had made our point rather well, so it was time to leave. The Metropolitan Police then cut the chain off of the door and we walked out to a crowd of Gratte Brothers employees and electricians who didn't make it through the gate. The one comment that stood out the most was from a young lady waiting to go in "well done lads, can you come back again on Friday afternoon?"

We then had a meeting on the side of the road. We had a sort of de-briefing and details were dished out about the National Rank and File Meeting coming up in London.

Saturday 3 December 11am-2pm

Unite national rank and file construction workers meeting,
Grand Connaught Rooms
61-65 Great Queen St
London WC2B 5BE

There were also protests in Liverpool, Edinburgh, Teeside and Manchester.

In Liverpool they were at the Shepherds site, Liverpool Library. There were 50 lads on the two gates which held up three wagons who also refused to unload whilst there was a picket there. Extensive leafleting was also carried out on the site and a couple of neighbouring sites.

In Manchester there were over 20 outside the NG Baileys site, Manchester Town Hall.

In Edinburgh over 70 gathered outside the Balfour Beatty site on George Street.

On Teeside, Conoco site, roughly 75 turned up to man the gates before dawn. Spie tried to persuade workers to come in to work before 6 so as to miss any problems on the gate. They refused. Roughly twenty walked off site and joined the protest

It also appears that Spie employees at Corus and Ratcliffe also walked out on Wednesday morning. So once again, well done lads