Hundreds refuse to cross picket line in wildcat Crossrail strike

More than 200 workers at the flagship rail construction project have downed tools today in solidarity with more colleagues who have been sacked and locked out.

The dispute blew up after Balfour Beatty made 54 workers redundant at short notice yesterday and a further 50 were locked out, allegedly at the behest of blacklisting-linked boss Gerry Harvey.

The job cuts came just days after electricians at their Woolwich Station in London had filed for an industrial action ballot over pay and finishing bonuses via union Unite. There had also been complaints over the list of who was to be canned, with long-term workers and shop stewards made redundant while new workers were retained.

Around 150 electricians walked out in solidarity today at Woolwich, with more than 70 joining them from sites at Plumstead, City Airport and North Woolwich, according to construction industry and anti-blacklisting activist Dave Smith.

Talking to union-news.co.uk Smith said: “We are told blacklisting is a thing of the past but today’s anti-union hostility is plain for everyone to see.”

Balfour has said the redundancies were part of standard operations, saying “we have always been clear that our works would start to wind down towards the end of this year” and that consultation had started in November.

Site sources explained however that problems with pay rates had been bubbling since the summer and Balfour’s refusal to engage properly with requests for a completion bonus as work begins to wind down has left “feelings running pretty high.”

Industry reports suggest that bosses are keeping a “close eye” on the situation as they fear calls for finishing bonuses could spread to other sites.

Update: A mass solidarity picket has been called for Thursday December 14th, 6.30am at the Whitechapel station site.