Since May, there have been daily pickets outside the prestigious Piccadilly Gardens development in Manchester. The action began when four electricians were sacked by the contractor DAF Electrical for forming a branch of the TGWU/EPIU and insisting on their right to direct employment. There were seven further dismissals as other electricians took unofficial strike action in solidarity.
DAF have used the terms of the JIB (Joint Industry Board for the Electrical Contracting Industry) to justify the sackings. This body represents Britain's longest running ‘sweetheart deal', under which the employers pay workers' dues direct to the union (originally the EETPU, but now, through a series of mergers, Amicus). As such, no other unions are recognised.
Meanwhile, the sacked electricians' work is being handled by unskilled labourers, which itself is a breach of JIB regulations. So too are the pay (£5/hour v. £7.10 JIB rate) and out of town allowances (£5/day plus sleeping bag v. the £28 JIB rate for B&B) that DAF is paying their scabs. As usual, employers break agreements with impunity while union officials look the other way. In a similar vein, it was the sacked men, not Amicus officials, who forced a reluctant Health and Safety Executive into investigating DAF's unsafe working practices. The use of low paid unskilled workers to do electrical and other such potentially hazardous work is an increasingly widespread feature in the construction industry, and partly explains the currently rocketing death and accident toll.
The T&G eventually gave this dispute official backing in early July and is representing the workers through the industrial tribunal process. To contribute to the fighting fund, send cheques, payable to ‘A. Jones', to: Mr S. Acheson, 13 Thompson Close, Danebank, Denton M34 2PQ. Tel. 07813 456831. For further details on the strike and on the JIB sweetheart deal, see the next issue of Direct Action, due out in September.