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Sparks

Industry insight: A spark's view

A SolFed member who has worked as an electrician since the late 1970s shares his experience of the electric supply industry, privatisation and trade unions.

I started an apprenticeship at 16 from school in the local electric company. It was then a nationalised industry and everyone was in one of the recognised (by the company) trade unions (a closed shop). There were many different departments and staff could move between them as workload dictated. As an apprentice I spent time in each department to give me experience of each and to hopefully decide in which one I would ultimately stay.

Shop steward reinstated at Ratcliffe power station after walkout

Hundreds of people stopped work at Ratcliffe power station in Nottinghamshire last Tuesday after a shop steward was suspended. Rank and file activists from round the country went to the site at 6am and spoke to workers going in, who held onsite meetings and voted to take action in support of their health and safety rep. 600 people eventually walked out unofficially. It is inspiring that various trades took part, not just electricians, including welders, scaffolders and pipefitters. Rank and file activists say that the rep, Jason Poulter, who was suspended six weeks ago, is being victimised for being active in the Besna protests.  He has now been reinstated and is back at Ratcliffe. 

London Solfed on Mayday: "You say Workfare, we say warfare!"

May 1st was, of course, Mayday, International Workers’ Day, held in memory of the six anarchists executed after the Haymarket riot, a protest in Chicago way back in 1886 over the 8 hour working day.  Despite it falling on a normal working day this year, both London SF branches called an anti-Workfare roving picket through central London, as well as attending an electricians’ picket and, least interestingly, the official, Trade Union Congress (TUC) march.

The electricians’ picket – called by the Sparks rank and file group – was in response to employers trying to block rank and file activists from even attending the ongoing negotiations over the JIB agreement. We braved the bleak, grey early morning for a couple of hours befire retreating to a
café for a break and a caffeine fix.

Rank and File electricians occupy Grattes Brothers HQ

This morning the weekly protests got very lively as the rank and file electricians occupied the Grattes Brothers HQ. With only a few days left of the ballot for strike action, we gathered at 6.30 outside the gates of the building site at Kings X. Electricians and supporters leafletted the workers going in and there was a short attempt to block the gate but the police kept a pathway open so people could still go in to work.

All power to the sparks!

The electricians had called a national day of action for the same day as the student protest of November 9th, which looked like it could have a lot of possibilities. Would these two very different movements be able to link up?

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