Monday, 17 October 2011

Hartlepool Unite Union Meeting with the notorious union boss Bernard McAuley

THE meeting on 10th October 2011, was hosted by Hartlepool Construction branch. It was chaired by Tom Geach the chair of the Hartlepool branch. With visitors and supporters there were about 70 there. Bernard McAuley gave a pretty factual account of the situation that most people probably knew. He listed the main changes that the employers were seeking to impose:

1/ cut wages by at least 25%

2/ working day to be determined by the employer.

3/ employers want NVQ Level 2 rates of pay. All trades would be at this grade after 2 years

4/ employers to offer training by the company BEST.

5/ employers to decide who gets NVQ qualifications.

6/ the employer to decide what trade you would be employed as.

7/ employers want lists of union members.

8/ employers to decide if you get travelling and lodgings allowance.

9/ employers to be allowed to lay off people and put workers on short-time working.

Pre-empting questions about a ballot for strike action Bernard McAuley said this was difficult to organise because he had to obtain an up to date list of members and this was very difficult but by Tuesday of next week (18th October) at the latest he would be in a position to let people know what was happening. There was to be a shop stewards meeting in London. We can't he said allow just anybody in. To obtain credentials to attend people had to apply to their regional officials or regional secretary. Bernard McAuley also said:

1. agencies would be instructed by employers to recruit 'electrical improvers'. These were trades at the lowest possible rate because this would be the rate that employers would quote for contracts.

2. people should work together by addressing problems on a site by site basis as individuals.

3. a good tactic was to work to rule.

4. the only time results have occurred was following unofficial action.

5. the union had organised the demonstration in Oxford Street.

Bernard McAuley spoke for about an hour in complete silence. He then sat down to a stony silence. Not a single person said a single word until the chair called for questions and contributions from the floor. The main demand was for a national ballot NOW for all out strike action. The next demand was for unofficial strike action and picketing of all sites. Many times Bernard McAuley told us that the first was difficult to organise and the second was impossible because of anti trade union legislation. Several people said the union never placed any real pressure on the Labour government to repel these laws. Bernard McAuley also said following calls by Siteworker to email him he had received at least a thousand emails calling for a national ballot. He had or would reply to every single one. Bernard McAuley was also informed that Bill Green had said the advice of the union NOT to sign the new agreement but if people refused and were sacked the union would be unable to help. Bernard McAuley said nothing. Mention was made of the email sent in Bernard McAuley's name regarding a 'cancerous cell'. The intention of this said Bernard McAuley was in the context that everybody had to work together for the common good. It had rattled cages he said but he had also been hauled over the coals for it by McCluskey.

There was a lot of frustration in this meeting. People it seemed had attended expecting Bernard McAuley and the union generally to offer real solutions to the problems posed by the employers onslaught but there was nothing of any real substance except the union has your best interests at heart and calls to recruit to the union. There were calls for a committee like the one on Tyneside to coordinate and plan actions but this was left to be decided on another day. However after the meeting there was an unofficial meeting of a group to possibly organise unofficial actions.

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