The rally in London was quickly followed by action at Staythorpe. Then the focus switched to Pembroke. Britain’s engineering construction workers continue to set the pace…
February has proved to be a lively month in the engineering construction industry, demonstrating that neither the issues nor the workers will simply go away, despite attempts by “friends” and enemies.
Engineering construction workers in London on 3 February to protest at the use of cheap foreign labour in preference to British workers.|
The month began with construction workers from power stations rallying in Westminster on 3 February (see photo, left, and news article). Then Staythorpe power station – a site run by French multi-national Alstom – again became the focus of attention when a strike by GMB members due to begin on 12 February was called off at the last minute when Alstom caved in to demands over redundancies.
But on the morning of 17 February the site was brought to a standstill as scaffolders struck in protest at the way a scaffolding incident had been handled by Alstom. It is illegal to tamper in any way with scaffolding unless you are qualified to do so – an act that traditionally sees the offender instantly dismissed.
It has been a feature on jobs run by Alstom that this rule only applies to British workers. Alstom allowed the offending Spanish worker, not a qualified scaffolder, to continue on site while an “investigation” was undertaken, sparking the walk out. Alstom and the local police were caught unawares when the men left their transport some way from the entrance to the site, walking to the main gates and blockading access.
All workers employed by British contractors respected the picket line and caused miles of queuing traffic with the not-insignificant disruption lasting until the late morning.
After an HSE investigation, a Spanish worker was dismissed, and the men called off their strike. A GMB spokesman said the employer was clearly heading for confrontation, but the workforce was not prepared to compromise.
As Workers goes to print, the focus of the struggle has shifted to south west Wales, where Alstom is the main contractor for the new power station build in Pembroke. The mechanical engineering side of the job is due to commence within weeks yet there has not been a single advert placed in the local job centres. Disgusted with the continuing treatment of British workers, a local grandmother, along with others, is organising a protest outside the site on the morning of 22 February (see www.bearfacts.co.uk for further details).
Facebook is also being used as a means of pushing the message out and goes under the name of GIVE THE BRITISH JOBS FIRST @ PEMBROKE POWER STATION, attracting over 2500 members already. And with BBC's Radio 4 programme You and Yours exposing that just 4 per cent of local people are employed on the Olympic project, the struggle is broadening and again engaging and challenging the people who can make the difference – British workers.
Footnote: It is reported from Yorkshire and Lincolnshire that although the government claims the recession is “technically over”, new figures released on 17 February show that this area of the country has suffered the steepest rise in unemployment anywhere in Britain in the past three months. With a quarter of a million local people on the dole, lives are in turmoil; household budgets and family relationships are stretched to breaking point.