Thursday, 3 November 2011

Balfour Rattled??? Protest Round Up

I have now lost count of how many weeks we have been outside, bloody early on Wednesday mornings up and down the country. The end of August when this all started I didn't even think ahead to the prospect of standing in the dark in the rain with a dripping wet cigarette hanging from my gob.
But however many weeks on (week 12 maybe?) we are still here and we are going no where. I will be outside jobs every Wednesday morning with the others who care to turn up until the war is won.

The winning of this war is along way off yet but we are constantly winning battles. This week there have been some great pieces of news filtering out from sites across the country.
  • Balfour Beatty have missed out on the second phase of Carrington Paper Mill, Manchester due to the client, United Utilities, not being happy with unrest on their project. This is a direct result of the protests organised by the North West Rank and File. Each time there has been a protest there in recent weeks workers and deliveries have not been able to cross the picket line.
  • British Nuclear Fuels Ltd are withholding Balfour Beattys latest payment for work on Sellafield Power station due to the unrest on site. The protests that have been and action that will be coming have concerned them enough to get BBES top management down for talks about the situation. 
  • Crown House, who up until 3 weeks ago, illegally refused Unite officials access to workers, now have shop stewards on their sites. Two were elected on Tuesday in London
  • Spie Matthew Hall have also had two shop stewards elected this week on London sites
  • Finally, a source in Balfour Beatty tells me that pressure is really starting to mount on John Moore
 who is coming under increasing pressure from the area managers. They are being constantly met with concern from new and existing clients about the current situation and the possibility of Industrial unrest on their projects.

 You will all agree (apart from T Clarke - Mitchell & Hewitt, Balfour Beatty, HVCA, Wellplan and NG Baileys who all check the blog on a daily basis) that this is all good news. This good news has only come about by direct action. Without the direct action we would already be royally fucked. 
So you lot sitting there who have not been to a protest/picket yet. GET OFF YOUR ARSE and get involved. The proof is there that we are rocking the boat in a big way and with more people we can tip capsize the poxy thing. 

There are alot of you reading this that have not been to a protest yet

This whole situation is something that myself and alot of people I am working with have never come across before, the need to fight for our jobs.
Most of the people I am currently working with are under 30. We have all joined the industry within the last 12 years and in that time period there has been no major disputes or threats to our livelihoods. It has been fairly plain sailing actually.
The downside to everything being calm is that people, like myself, don't worry about joining the Union. Take for granted the fact that we have the JIB and start to believe the crap spouted by companies/media about Unions being a bad thing.
Without the Union the employees/workers don't have a voice, with no voice, who is there to argue our case for inflation based pay rises? Increased Health and Safety, better Terms and Conditions? We cant do that on our own.
So yes this is new to alot of us, yes it is fucking scary not knowing what is going to happen. BUT sitting there doing nothing is not an option. We HAVE to get to the protests. Cause disruption. Piss of clients. Email your MP/MEP. Everything we can possibly do to highlight the situation and blatant robbery of our trade.

This effects more than just JIB members. Because the JIB has been in existence for nearly 40 years, they have become to benchmark. If you are a maintenance electrician, working for a non JIB company, on a bluebook site, employed domestic electrician, civil electrician, auto electrician, fire alarm engineer, data engineer and many many others that I have missed. This effects YOU too. Your rates of pay are based on the JIB Rates.
So if these 7 companies were to pull out, then the other 7 majors will also pull out and join them. Then the middle and smaller companies will pull out and there will be no more JIB.
Then your wages and rates will be based on BESNA and we have all come to realise what a load of shit that is.
This crap effects so much more than just the card labour of the seven  companies. It effects the WHOLE electrical industry from the bottom up, from site to factory across the whole country.

I was searching the Internet the other night and found an article on the ECA website "2021 Vision: The future of the Electrical Contracting Industry". It is a survey compiled by ECA and NICEIC and completed by their member companies.
The majority of the findings state that in the ever changing times with technology, if anything, Electricians should be going under MORE training and UPskilling to keep up to speed with whats happening.

Some main points I found which are extremely relevant to this debacle:

  • Crossover of trades requiring multi-skilling - 60% of companies consider this to be a threat
  • More components in new build manufactured off site, reducing the amount of skilled craftsmen on site - 79% threat
  • Lower skilled workforce doing work currently done by tradesmen - 98% threat
  • More competitive industry - 61% threat
When you read further down (page 32) 8.Industry Skills. Remembering that this is a survey of the 3000 ECA member Companies and NICEIC companies.
The five listed threats are:

Merging of trades
Electrical contractor will need NEW skills
De-skilling on site
Shortage of electrical contractors
European trades persons working in the uk

So it is not just US saying that this is a threat to our jobs and the industry as a whole. It is also the large MAJORITY of ECA member companies too.

Cal Bailey of NG Bailey received a special thanks for his input to the survey at the end.

And on to this weeks protests.

There were four this week. London, North West, Newcastle and Ratcliffe Power Station, Notts.

110 Cannon Street, London

The rain held off this week, which was a good start. There were around 300 at this weeks protest. We started at 110 Cannon Street outside the Grattes Brothers job where the twat of a site manager said he would pay us £1 an hour if he could. The site was absolutely dead. No one at all coming or going. We can only presume that Grattes and the main contractor decided to shut the site for the day to stop any trouble. There were plenty of City of London police to keep guard though. On of the speakers stated that it was the only site in the country with security being provided by the police.
After a while outside the site we voted to move on to Farringdon, the location of the now famous storming of the gates and occupying the site.
The only problem was that the police were being rather awkward in letting us march freely up the road. Constantly pushing us onto the pavement and slowing us down.
So it was decided that we would stop in Cannon Street Station and set up in there for a while where more speakers took to the mic.
We then moved off again up to Farringdon but enroute we came up to the 'Occupy' protest at St.Pauls. There were cameras from ITV and BBC there so we headed over. Once on the steps of St Pauls the photographers and news cameras came over to find out what was happening.
We were live on Daybreak on ITV at just gone 8am.

All that has set us up nicely for the 9th. See you then



Carrington Paper Mill, Manchester by Hugh Caffrey, Manchester Socialist Party

Continued protest at the Carrington paper-mill site halted traffic at the site this morning, causing it to back up for miles on either side of the site entrance.
Showing that protest works, Balfours have lost the contract for the second part of the Carrington job.
This follows United Utilities refusing to use any of the pay-slashing seven big construction companies, and rumours of other contracts lost for the same reason.
This is clearly a consequence of the demonstrations and walkouts and fear by clients that this will escalate to bigger protests and strikes.
The 'seven' can be defeated before they impose new contracts on 7th December, and will be if the protests are maintained and significant strike action develops on a number of the big sites.
Sparks from across the north-west have continued the weekly protests and are now preparing for the national demonstration in London next week (9th November).
Management at Carrington might not see next week, some of them nearly died of self-induced stress this morning on the gates! But we continued getting a supportive response from sparks and many other trades across the site, despite Balfour's threat that anyone not working today would be sacked.
Sparks will discuss now what the next steps are locally. Next week's demo is a great chance to discuss with workers and activists regionally and nationally, to plan further protests in the north-west and increase the numbers taking part.
It is a chance too for putting pressure on Unite to back these protests properly and mobilise the members going forward from 9th November.

There was a protest in Newcastle which was attended by over 30 people at a Balfour Beatty site on Percy Street. Flyers were handed out and the message was put well across to the people entering site. There was
also a walk out at Ratcliffe Power Station, Nottinghamshire. There were approximately 75 outiside blocking the roads. Once again causing traffic chaos to the local area, site and queues even reaching the M1 motorway.
Banner on approach to Ratcliffe


  1. as well as eca visit the besna site to find out more info on how these wretches plan to rob us, there's a nice bar chart type thing on there which shows all the rates for the new agreement, interesting that labourers will be on the same rate as installers.

  2. We went down to the protest at Ratcliffe On Soar and were surprised to see so many electricians on the picket, and so much support from people driving into the site, despite having to wait in their cars for quite a long time. Victory to the Sparks! You can read our report here:

  3. what about the subbies already paying ten pound an hour - you should target these companies and leave the direct employers alone - when they are gone you will be F**ked!


    check out this video of the day

  5. Good blog. As a former JIB spark who now lives in Canada I can tell you what to expect. We went through this bullshit in 1984 in Alberta.
    It took 20 years for the wages to go back to the original levels. In 1984 I was making $24 an hour. One day the bosses just announced that this was going down to $13 and hour. They told us on the friday that we would be laid off the following Friday if we didn't accept.
    I told them to shove it and bought a van. By the next week I was taking their customers away and working for $26 an hour. I got the tax write-offs for the van and office equipment, fuel, etc.
    Most of the other workers just caved in and worked for $13, used their own cars to haul material around, paid for fuel, etc.
    As soon as they won against the sparks they did the same to plumbers, carpenters, insulators, pipefitters, welders, millwrights, etc.
    Many people just quit their trade and did other things like sell cars, etc.
    At least they didn't get filthy every day and risk the hazards of construction. The odd paper-cut is OK.
    My advice is Do not sell your labour cheaply. It is all that you own. Your life is just as valuable as some famous guy who makes 10,000 per half hour for speaking a load of crap. (I'm thinking about Blair and people like that).
    Good luck. Fight on.
    My site is