Wednesday, 6 April 2011

British Building Trade in the Dark Ages!


The construction industry in 2011 has most definitely gone back to the dark ages: read 'The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists' by Robert Tressell today and the whole story rings true (see review by Chris Draper in the Spring issue of Northern Voices 12). Site deaths for this year are over 50 with a 1000 more injured and nobody seems to give a damn: 'its only a building worker plenty more of them around who would work for half that last bloke's money!' I am sure if someone was killed on a site today and the body could be pushed down a trench and covered in with cement some building firms would happily do that - a bit far-fetched maybe, but that's how building workers are seen by subbies, agencies, and the gangster firms who have infested our industry.

How do they get away with sacking workers on a Friday night as they are on their way home with no notice pay? How do they get away with deducting money from your wages every week on a payroll company? How do get away with canteens and changing rooms that are sub-standard? A dog wouldn't be treated in such a way. How do they get away with blacklisting? Its still going on; none of the files will be destroyed, it's nonsense to say they have been, every person on Ian Kerr's files has got no chance of ever working on a large site again.

I was told by a friend of mine who is at Olympic site 'Steve Kelly, will never work in London he is the biggest trouble maker in London!'. If only I had it on tape! This should not be tolerated by myself or other dedicated trade union members. I was lucky in some ways I managed to get work in the maintenance industry, many of my comrades have struggled to find work over the last 3 years, and their torture continues; it is mental torture - its no fun signing on every week especially if there are children to think of. I know of 3 people, electricians, who tragically committed suicide in recent years due to mounting debt through lack of work -  they were on the jubilee line with me. Also, another friend who had 12-page blacklist file died from a brain hemorrhage aged 51 last December, the cases he was pursuing took over his life in a way, fighting for justice; he died and never saw justice. How can these bosses sleep at night? I would love to turn the tables on them. The construction unions have won a few cases, most have not got to tribunal; a UCATT member I know has a 52-page file going back to the 1970s: he was told he had no chance of a claim for discrimination for trade union activity! That can't be right! The government must surely do a complete review of working practices, health and safety, and methods of payment of wages, employment law and rights are non existent in the construction industry. This would not be tolerated in any other industry, so why is it in construction? The hardest workers seem to be getting the worst treatment: no Xmas bonus for the poor construction worker a brown envelope with the P45 if your lucky enough to be on the cards.

The WRA, JIB, and NAEICI agreements are being eroded away gradually, WRA was gone years ag,o not worth the paper it's written on really. Today, you are likely to be threatened with a good hiding by a supervisor, as Frank Morris was, or slung off a site for standing up for your rights, as BP Saltend workers have. The only solution I can see available to siteworkers is to lay down a few ultimatums and get them to treat us with the decency that we deserve. Or set about striking and picketing these sites; if workers are stopped from crossing picket lines the job will never be built. Its time for workers to take on these rotten bosses: occupy your site if necessary. If you tolerate this your children will be next!.

Steve Kelly, Unite London construction branch secretary.

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