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Electricians block Oxford Street

Wed, 05/10/2011 - 13:58

In the sixth week of the conflict, following last Wednesday's site occupation, electricians gathered on Oxford Street outside two building sites, as part of demonstrations against the attempts to change working conditions in the largest construction companies. Changes include pay cuts of 35% and de-skilling which would affect thousands of workers. The construction companies are trying to push the changes through by December and are threatening workers with the sack if they don't sign new contracts. 

SolFed members rocked up in solidarity as part of a crowd of 300-400 people. We stood around half-listening to speeches and eye-balling the grim police from 7ish, before marching to another site. Oxford Street was blocked intermittently over an hour, and the police responded with shoving and surrounding the crowd. Tension flared when the police tried to control where we were standing, and shoved us around, but this was often avoided by turning around and marching in the opposite direction.
 
It ended at a construction site with calls for the workers to walk out, which unfortunately didn't work. An electrician said he thought about 90% of the workers were self-employed, and therefore on no proper contract and without rights - that they could be sacked without any notice, and have no proper holiday or sick leave. If they were to walk out they could potentially be fired and replaced pretty quickly, and without useful union support the biggest challenge is to act together. Another was saying that when they were out on strike in the 70s everyone would be unionised - couldn't work on site if they weren't - so when a strike was called, everyone went out. The unions (predominently Unite from the looks of it) apparently feel they have no mandate to ballot for industrial action, but are willing to start getting involved in January. However, the new contracts are to be signed by December, so clearly they're acting too slowly. The biggest issue seemed to be this sense of fragmentation, but throughout this morning most people were determined to stick together.


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