A meeting of shop stewards from the engineering construction industry in Manchester on 17 September voted to recommend an offer from the employers on a new national agreement (NAECI - Blue Book) covering workers in the industry.
Negotiations had taken place against the background of three major “unofficial” disputes earlier in the year, and most recently the positive “official” strike votes from seven larger, better organised sites. The official vote was able to be lawfully undertaken following the employer’s opening “offer” of a pay freeze unless it was self financing (through removal of the morning break), and following the employers’ refusal to negotiate. This vote also reflected the anger that exists on sites, primarily over the use of foreign labour, and this will not go away.
The recommendation must now be taken back to all the NAECI sites for members to vote on; it is unclear which way this will go. Clearly there has been significant movement on most items of the claim, but the failure to secure guarantees over employment of British workers will anger many.
It was always going to be impossible to win these guarantees within the confines of a union/employer agreement in a capitalist environment – they would fly in the face of both British and EU law. That does not make the demand wrong, but the best that could be hoped for was “equality of opportunity” and, rightly, workers do not trust employers to honour this; as ever, they will have to be forced.
The idea that any agreement is the panacea for the problems we face in any industry is utopian and must be challenged. At root it is social democratic – the idea that we can argue the evils of capitalism away. Let he who desires peace, prepare for war, class war.