Construction is one of the few industries left today where there’s still a living tradition of self-organised rank-and-file militancy, especially among electricians. This spirit was shown in a major dispute at the start of the 2010s, when a huge wildcat by electricians defeated an attempt by construction companies to impose a new national agreement that would have led to worse pay and conditions.
Now, sparks are getting ready for another major showdown, after employers at Hinkley Point nuclear power plant announced their intention to have electrical work carried out by “electrical support operatives”, with less training and on a lower wage, rather than by fully trained and qualified electricians.
The dispute kicked off with an occupation of EDF Energy’s offices on Wednesday 24th February. Following the occupation, EDF Energy has now announced a pause to the scheme. Refusing to settle for a partial victory, the construction rank and file have now turned their attention to major construction contractors NG Bailey and Balfour Beatty. On Wednesday, March 3rd, occupations and protests took place targeting the two companies in London, Swansea, Manchester, and Grangemouth Refinery.
One rank and file spark, speaking in Manchester, issued a warning to the employers:
“We the Construction Rank & File are today issuing NG Baileys and Balfour Beatty a final warning. Stop this deskilling agenda of the electrical industry and follow the example set by your client EDF. All your sites across the UK are mapped out for direct action starting with your major projects.
You have until Monday 8th March to issue a statement resolving the matter.
NO RESPONSE WILL BE TAKEN AS A DECLARATION OF WAR.”
The dispute could well turn into the biggest wildcat action seen in the UK in recent years, and looks to be well worth following for anyone with any interest in self-organised workers’ militancy and direct action. To keep up with developments, you can check their twitter, join a closed facebook group, or their telegram channel.
~ Cautiously Pessimistic
Image: video still, from Reel News.