Sparks Step Up Campaign To Defend Their Pay And Conditions!

Building workers gather at King’s Cross on Wednesday morning
Building workers gather at King’s Cross on Wednesday morning

CONSTRUCTION site electricians stepped up their campaign on Wednesday to defend pay and conditions against a brutal onslaught by a ‘cartel’ of contractors to smash them up.

A mass rally assembled near platforms 10 and 11 at Kings Cross Station in central London at 6.30am with music, rapping and speeches.

More than 300 electricians, union reps and officers, then marched down the road for a further rally at the side of the station, followed by a march onto the central concourse of Kings Cross Station itself, where commuters and tourists heard more impassioned speeches.

They heard speeches expressing the determination of the ‘sparks’ to defeat the threat by major construction bosses to tear up the JIB (Joint Industry Board) agreements and impose 35 per cent pay cuts.

Speaker after speaker demanded that their union, Unite, call an immediate strike ballot.

Employers planning to pull out of the JIB are Bailey Building Services, Balfour Beatty Engineering Services, Tommy Clarke, Crown House Technologies, Gratte Brothers, MJN Colston, SES and SPIE Matthew Hall.

Before and after the speeches, electricians told News Line about the issues involved.

Danny Samuels, electrician and Unite member, said: ‘The union needs to take a strong stand.

‘If they de-skill the work the years of service in the electrical industry mean nothing.

‘The quality of work will fail. You can’t have unskilled people doing electrical work, it’s too dangerous.

‘And what about the insurance? How can the insurance companies insure a building that hasn’t been constructed and wired by qualified craftsmen?

‘The likes of Balfour Beatty and the others are just after short-term profits. They want unskilled workers to do a skilled man’s job.’

John Corkerry, Approved Electrician and Unite member, said: ‘We want an industrial action ballot and we want it now.

‘We are fighting for the future of the trade.

‘My son is a fourth-year apprentice with Tommy Clarke’s – that’s one of the original eight companies that are supposedly coming out of the JIB, so what future has he got?

‘The way it’s going up and down the country, the momentum is building.

‘Hopefully, we’ll have the ballot as soon as possible.

‘And when we have it, there will be an overwhelming majority in favour. We’re going to win.’

Speaking enthusiastically about the report on Tuesday that one of the initial eight ‘rogue’ contractors had capitulated and agreed to continue to abide by the JIB agreement, electrician Philip Johnson said: ‘It’s one down and seven to go.’

He continued: ‘We need more and more sparks to come out and join us.

‘The union must call a ballot and the sooner the better. We have to raise the profile.

‘We also need the union to intensify the recruitment campaign.

‘They need to turn up on the sites. There’s a lot of sparks that say that when the struggle is backed by the union then they will support action.

‘The union must stop dragging its heels.’

Union rep Alan Keys told the rally: ‘It’s another great turnout in London.’

He went on to report of other action by sparks around the country, including news that: ‘Liverpool is having its first demo today.’

He continued: ‘We want a ballot and we are also demanding of Unite a national strike of all construction workers.

‘It’s not just about electricians and plummers, it’s about the construction industry as a whole.’

Vince Passfield, Unite Construction Regional Officer, said: ‘We will protect our existing agreements.

‘In their proposals there is no protection from lay-offs or short-term working.

‘We are making preparations and plans for an industrial action ballot, however difficult that is, we are pushing it along.’

Mick Abbott, a veteran from the struggle to free the Shrewsbury two, Des Warren and Ricky Tomlinson, building workers who were jailed for ‘conspiracy’, received a warm reception.

He told the rally: ‘It’s great to be among you here in London. It’s nearly 40 years since Shrewsbury.

In 1975, when the lads were in jail, we walked here. They were sent to jail for basic trade unionism.

‘Don’t let the people go to jail again, and if they do, we need a general strike to get them out.’

Pete Cavanagh, Unite Regional Secretary, said: ‘What you got in 1968 wasn’t handed to you on a plate, it was fought for.

‘If they get away with a 35 per cent pay cut they’ll come for everything else afterwards.

‘We have to move towards a ballot as soon as we can.’

Labour MP John McDonnell told the rally: ‘This demo is bigger than last week’s and you are getting stronger.

‘This struggle is absolutely critical.

‘Bring on the ballot. We’re not going to be defeated by this cartel.’

UCATT General Secretary candidate Michael Dooley told the rally: ‘Each and every one of you know that demonstrations like today can only go so far.

‘Ballot or no ballot, official or unofficial, we are going to have to start putting pickets on gates and pulling people out.’

Wednesday’s action followed a 200-strong rally the previous week at Farringdon, where the protesting electricians marched onto the huge Crossrail site, brushing aside attempts by security officers to stop them.

Next Wednesday, the electricians’ are holding a ‘Defend National Agreements Strategic Targeting Unite Demonstration’ at Park House in Oxford Street (left out of Bond Street Tube), in central London.

The union states: ‘Unite nationally are identifying key target sites for the purpose of raising this issue where it matters:–


‘We need to draw on the passion & commitment already shown and stand “shoulder to shoulder” with workers at the forefront of the imposed changes.

‘Unite urges attendance at this and further demonstrations which will target the nine renegade employers responsible.

‘Help us deliver the message onto site to prevent EMPLOYERS SMASHING OUR NATIONAL AGREEMENTS.’