Solidarity Magazine » Construction industry Fri, 01 Mar 2013 19:29:19 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Crane Safety win for Battersea Crane Disaster Action Group Wed, 03 Mar 2010 15:14:20 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Report by Liliana Alexa

Battersea Crane Disaster Action Group has won the fight to change the law around crane safety.

Following the collapse of a tower crane in Battersea in September 2006 which killed 2 men, a community and trade union campaign was launched to call for a change in the law surrounding tower cranes.

After a hard fought, award winning campaign new regulations around tower crane safety will now come into force on the 6th April which include the registration of all conventional tower cranes.

Employers will now have responsibility to notify the health and safety executive of the site address of the crane and the name and address of the owners of the crane. This will have to be followed up with an examination of the crane within a 14 day period before the crane can be put to use.

The Battersea Crane Disaster Action Group, which was initiated by Battersea and Wandsworth TUC unified the local community in Battersea, bereaved family members and the trade unions to bring the issue of crane safety to the public and campaign for change to prevent further deaths.

Poor health and safety surrounding tower cranes has led to the death of at least 8 people since 2000. According to the Health and Safety executive, the new law will now go a long way to ensuring this isn’t repeated.

Liliana Alexa, whose son Michael Alexa, 23, was killed by the crane whilst cleaning his car welcomed the news of the change in the law.

She said; “I am very, very happy to hear about the crane register becoming law, I welcome anything that leads to improved health and safety legislation.

But too many people are still being killed and hurt on building sites, these people usually get paid around £7-10 an hour to risk their lives and their safety on a daily basis, its just not worth it, but where else are they meant to work? They are then told to keep quiet if they hear or see anything on site which contradicts good health and safety practice.

Just before Christmas a young man was killed on the Olympics construction site in Westfield, London. When will these deaths stop? They are unnecessary and preventable. Workers need to join together in trade unions to ensure that employers take health and safety seriously.

My son didn’t work on a site, he was just out cleaning his car on the street, an innocent bystander, yet if health and safety surrounding tower cranes had been taken more seriously he may still be here today. I do not want another mother to go through what I have and so I hope that this register will help prevent more deaths n the future. This register must be used alongside workers on sites being organised and able to stand up to their employers when they see something that is not right.”

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GMB Engineering Construction Workers Vote To Reject Employers "Final Offer" Mon, 05 Oct 2009 16:50:53 +0000 Continue reading ]]> GMB Engineering Construction Workers Vote To Reject Employers Final Offer On Pay And Conditions

 Members insist on the skills and unemployment registers and to copper-fasten the pre award audit to screen out employers who plan to undercut the agreed rates and terms and conditions says GMB 5 Oct 2009

The 30,000 engineering construction workforce have voted to reject the employers offer on pay and conditions in workplace individual ballots held over the past two weeks. The offer was in response to claims from the unions GMB and Unite.

Workers on seven sites have already voted for industrial action in pursuit of the claim.

 Phil Davies GMB National Secretary said “The members want more progress on the skills and unemployment registers and they want to copper-fasten the pre award audit to screen out employers who plan to undercut the agreed rates and terms and conditions. The employer’s offer of working parties on the registers is seen as jam tomorrow and the members no longer trust the employers to deliver. The members want the package to be completed now so that they can see what they are getting. The next step is to go back to the employers to see if they are up for further talks.”

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GMB To Ballot Engineering Construction Members For Strike Action At Power Station And Oil Refinery Sites Sat, 18 Jul 2009 16:45:09 +0000 Continue reading ]]>

The objective of this dispute is to eliminate discrimination, unfair treatment and exploitation in this industry of workers wherever they come from

16 Jul 2009

GMB today announced that it will conduct an official strike ballot of engineering construction members working in the building and maintenance of Britain’s power stations and oil refinery sites. Members working for contractors at the following sites will be balloted:- BP FPS Grangemouth and Ineos Grangemouth in Scotland, Sellafield, Shell UK Stanlow and Staythorpe RWE in Nottinghamshire and Chevron Pembroke and Aberthaw in Wales. Unite will also ballot its members on the same sites with the same timetable.

Local GMB officers will write to contractors at these sites to give notice of the ballot by 4th August. The ballot will run from 11th August 2009 and end on 1st September. Any agreed industrial action following shortly after.

GMB, and Unite, is to ballot its members because the employer’s body, the Engineering Construction Industry Association (ECIA) has rejected the unions key demands for improvements to the National Agreement for the Engineering Construction Industry (NAECI), which would deliver fairness and long term stability to the sector. There is a scheduled meeting of the NJC on 4th August.

The ballot follows months of industrial unrest and unofficial action at sites across the country due to unscrupulous employers refusing local workers access to apply for work and undercutting the NAECI agreement.

Paul Kenny, GMB General Secretary said,

“The anger and frustration felt by both workers and bona fida employers in the engineering construction industry at the miss-use and exploitation of migrant labour has now been boiling over for many months as witnessed on several sites across the country.

The objective of this dispute is to eliminate discrimination, unfair treatment and exploitation in this industry of workers where ever they come from. A robust and transparent auditing process is the only way of forcing these employers to break from their bad habits. This is not a skills issue, this is not a foreign worker issue, it is about fairness and adhering to agreed standards.”

Phil Davies, GMB National Secretary added. “The employers at the NJC on the 4th August have the scope to avert this dispute. They need to agree to changes in the national agreement that will benefit the workforce and introduce fairness for all those who work in this vital industry.

A GMB Press release

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GMB Accuse Senior Managers Of Provoking The Unofficial Dispute At Lindsay By The Layoff Of Original 51 Workers In Breach Of Agreements Mon, 22 Jun 2009 17:03:39 +0000 Continue reading ]]>

It is clear from what Richard Rowlands told the union that there never was any intention to redeploy these workers despite the company agreeing to do this just a few short weeks ago say GMB

22 Jun 2009

GMB today revealed that two senior managers at Lindsay Oil Refinery site Richard Rowlands and Ian Elliot instructed a contractor on site, R Blackett and Charlton, to hire 61 new workers although they knew that the original contractor Shaw were about to make 51 workers, doing exactly the same jobs, redundant three days later. GMB claim that Richard Rowlands and Ian Elliot did this deliberately in breach of agreements and accuse them of provoking the unofficial disputes in the engineering construction industry.

R Blackett and Charlton were brought on site in spring 2009 to be the employer for the 105 new jobs that were created as part of the ACAS brokered deal in the spring. Laying off these 51 workers is in breach of an agreement by Total and the main contractors Jacobs that no workers on the site would lose their jobs as a consequence of IREM taking over part of the work undertaken by the Shaw workers. It was also in breach of the industry wide agreement whereby the Project Joint Council for Lindsay Oil Refinery site, which is co-chaired by Jacob, organises the movement of labour on the site throughout the life of the project.

The trade unions on the site confronted Richard Rowlands and asked him why Jacobs had not requested that R Blackett and Charlton transfer the 51 Shaw workers across as required by the two agreements referred to above. He replied on the record to the trade union officials that he was not prepared to recommend to R Blackett and Charlton “an unruly workerforce who had taken part in unofficial disputes and who won’t work weekends.”

Phil Davies GMB National Secretary, who will be attending the GMB protest demonstration tomorrow at Lindsay (see notes below), said:

Every stone you uncover on this job you find another management lie. It is clear from what Richard Rowlands told the union that there never was any intention to redeploy these workers despite the company agreeing to do this just a few short weeks ago. It is little wonder that the workforce castigate the company as being dishonest. This is a clear case of victimisation on a par with the notorious industry blacklists.”

]]> 1 Lindsey oil refinery – bosses refuse to negotiate Tue, 16 Jun 2009 18:50:55 +0000 Continue reading ]]>

One thousand striking workers at the Lindsey oil refinery have called for national walkouts at engineering construction sites across Britain after bosses refused to negotiate.

A mass meeting of the strikers, who first walked off the job in an unofficial strike against redundancies last week, issued the call after executives at the huge Total-owned refinery in Lincolnshire refused to meet their union reps on Tuesday.

Total bosses insisted that “as this action is illegal, we cannot enter into discussions with union officials until the workforce returns to work,” but GMB shop steward Phil Whitehouse stressed that the engineers and construction workers were determined to continue their stand.

Speaking to the Morning Star from the Lindsey site, Mr Whitehouse revealed that “Total managers have refused to attend talks mediated by ACAS at a hotel near the site.

“As a result, the workers intend to stay out and have called on workers at other sites to come out in support.”

Mr Whitehouse said that mass meetings were set to take place at engineering construction sites in Wales and across the north of England as the Morning Star went to press last night, while another meeting of the Lindsey workers was set to begin at 7am on Wednesday.

He said that workers were meeting to discuss their next moves at the Teesside oil refinery, the huge oil terminal at South Hook, near Milford Haven, and at the massive Dimlington gas terminal on Humberside.

Mr Whitehouse added that workers at the Fiddler’s Ferry power station site near Warrington had already downed tools.

GMB general secretary Paul Kenny demanded that Total management make an effort to resolve the workers’ concerns about some contractors making redundancies while others on the same site were taking on new staff.

He said that the union “was saddened by Total’s aggressive stance” in refusing to come to the negotiating table.

“GMB and ACAS are trying to resolve these difficulties, but the employers are seeking to provoke a reaction which we fear they may come to regret.

“The employers should stop acting like mill owners, effectively locking our members out, but threats and bullying are not the route to industrial peace,” he stressed.

From the Morning Star

]]> 0 Sackings spark second Lindsey strike Fri, 12 Jun 2009 16:16:20 +0000 Continue reading ]]>

Hundreds of engineering construction contractors have walked out at the Lindsey oil refinery in North Lincolnshire for the second time over job losses.

The protest began after major sub-contractor Shaw Ltd announced 51 redundancies among contract staff with immediate effect, while another employer on the site was hiring workers.

Up to 750 contractors immediately withdrew their services and demonstrated outside the refinery. The strike hit work on a new unit at the site, which was at the centre of unofficial strikes earlier this year.

The refinery employs 550 staff and has up to 1,000 contract workers at any time.

The first unofficial strike in February was over the employment of staff from overseas by Italian contractor IREM, with workers in Britain not being given the opportunity to apply for jobs – in breach of the National Agreement for the Construction Engineering Industry.

Speaking at the demonstration, Lindsey shop steward Kenny Ward quoted a statement issued by refinery operator Total in February which said: “There will be no immediate reduncies on this project while IREM remain on the site.”

But Mr Ward said: “The company has been recruiting skilled workers from Britain to fill the skills gap that they have.

“Our worst fears have been confirmed, that the workers brought from Italy, Portugal and Spain do not have the revelant competencies, qualifications and capabilities to carry out the specialist tasks.”

He added that the “vast majority” of those who had lost their jobs were trade union members, some of whom were former shop stewards and members of the strike committee from the February dispute.

“We are going to defend these men to the best of our ability both locally and, if need be, nationally,” he vowed.

The protests were set to continue tomorrow.

General union GMB said that it was also concerned that the workers were being victimised.

General secretary Paul Kenny said: “There are concerns that these workers may be being victimised for earlier industrial action and that these redundancies are in breach of the agreement that brought industrial peace to the site some months ago.

“We understand that local discussions are under way to try to resolve the dispute.”

Total confirmed that the protest was going ahead, but claimed that work at the refinery was unaffected.

Unofficial strike action was held last month by workers against the Dutch-based employer Hertel over the use of 40 Polish workers at South Hook, the Milford Haven oil terminal owned by ExxonMobil and Total of France.

Industrial action quickly spread to Aberthaw power station in the Vale of Glamorgan, then Fiddlers Ferry power station near Widnes in Cheshire and three other energy plants.

Members of GMB and fellow industry union Unite are currently balloting for official national strike action over employers’ endemic failure to abide by the national agreement.

From the Morning Star

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Speak out and you could be blacklisted Fri, 06 Mar 2009 20:57:10 +0000 Continue reading ]]> It’s time to impose a proper punitive system on employers who victimise workers for voicing concerns Gregor Gall from Comment is free

For people who care about the right of workers to be able to safely voice their legitimate concerns about the behaviour of their employers, today’s exposure by the Guardian of the blacklisting of workers in the construction and building industry will be very worrying.

The revelation shows that employers have been doing what they always denied – blacklisting those whom they deemed to be “troublemakers” for standing up for workers’ rights on a whole series of work issues.

And, it provides confirmation of what sacked workers and construction industry unions have suspected for a very long time. Indeed, in cases taken to prove unfair dismissal in the industry for union activities, such as speaking up about health and safety, the operation of blacklisting was already exposed on a case-by-case basis. One recent example concerns an electrician in Manchester on a PFI project .

But the victimisation in the construction and building industry is but the tip of the iceberg. Last month, the employers’ federation for the offshore oil and gas industry in Britain, came to an agreement with unions to end the use of blacklisting in the sector. In so doing, it admitted to what the oil workers’ unions had long argued – that the “Not Required Back” system was used to victimise workers who spoke out on behalf of themselves and others, and particularly over health and safety issues. Although the employers dispute the union’s view on how widespread the practice was, they’ve acknowledged that it has been going since the inception of the offshore industry in the 1970s. Indeed, it was a practice initiated by American companies brought over to get the industry started.

Just as worryingly, there has been a rising spate of victimisation of union activists in the public sector, where employers have traditionally been regarded as more fair-minded and equitable than private sector employers. From the case of the mental health nurse and Unison activist, Karen Reissman, to that of local government worker and Unison branch secretary, Nigel Behan, who has opposed outsourcing to the private sector at Somerset county council, to that of Adrian Swain, NUT rep at a London school, there is evidence that the roll call seems to be growing in public services.

The common denominator here seems to be union reps and members who are effective in voicing concerns and criticisms of the employers implementing government modernisation policies. Otherwise why try to silence them if they are ineffective? These are no doubt the public-sector workers that Tony Blair, when PM, claimed had given him scars on his back for attempting to modernise the public sector.

But, there are still other recent cases of victimisation in the private sector. The GMB shop steward at Thames Water, who criticised her employer over outsourcing, was told by her chief executive that she would be “exited”:

You obviously do not live the Thames Water values and your attitude is disrespectful. If you have no confidence in my leadership you should leave the organisation as soon as possible. Mike Tempest please interview this lady on Monday without fail and discuss an exit plan.

Meanwhile, an RMT activist was victimised upon returning to work after serving as a lay union officer.

My research for a paper to be presented at an academic conference in Australia later this year shows that not only have there been a significant number of alleged victimisations, where there is hard supportive evidence or actual victimisation (as determined by employment tribunals), but also this has been increasing in the last five years. So, from reports in the public domain, I have identified over 100 cases in the public sector and around 80 in the private sector (discounting those in the building and construction industry).

Surely it’s time to impose a proper punitive system on employers who victimise such workers? At the moment, victimisation can be hard to prove as the information required to do so is kept secret from the aggrieved worker, and less than 1% of employers who have unfair dismissal cases proven against them re-employ the said worker. Instead, they pay them off and – where this is in the public sector – they do so with public money.

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