Sparks deskilling protests
Socialist Party members in London joined around 50 rank-and-file construction electricians, members of general union Unite, to protest against deskilling on 3 March.
The workers have been boosted by forcing back plans to train new 'electrical support operative' (ESO) grades at the Hinkley Point nuclear power plant. These would have done electrical work at lower wages than time-served electricians. The action organised by the sparks started with workers protesting at the headquarters of NG Baileys and then marching to different construction sites - receiving support from the workers on sites.
Construction workers have also had high rates of death involving Covid-19, working on unsafe sites with no adequate PPE. More than 360 construction workers died between 9 March and 25 May last year while suffering from coronavirus.
The Socialist Party has called for the closing of unsafe working sites and the stoppage of non-essential jobs. Our placards and leaflet calling for support and shutting the sites to stop deskilling were welcomed.
The protest itself was very enjoyable - fun, lively and power-packed. It included construction workers who have been working in the industry for up to 50 years and some who joined recently. Workers were acting together to fight and defend their rights. Their collective action has already forced a retreat. The training course for ESOs may have been suspended but the fight continues until the threat of deskilling is off the agenda.
Every Wednesday they will be out again and we will be supporting them all the way. We sold six copies of the Socialist - two for the solidarity price.
Isai Priya, Waltham Forest Socialist Party
As part of the national campaign against the employers' attempts at the deskilling of construction electricians, Unite protestors were joined by Swansea Trades Council and Swansea Socialist Party members leafleting and discussing these attacks with dozens of workers entering the site.
Obviously, not all the construction workers who were going into the site were electricians, but the threat of deskilling spreading to other trades if this attack was not defeated was immediately recognised.
Some of the older electricians were explaining to the younger sparks that this is just the most recent employer attack to drive down terms and conditions leading to an almost constant battle over decades.
Plans were discussed to take the Unite protests to other sites across Wales over the coming weeks until the sparks get an absolute guarantee that deskilling moves will stop immediately! We will be supporting and standing alongside them.
Alec Thraves, vice president, Swansea Trades Council and Socialist Party
"Say no to the ESO", was the chant that rang out outside the HQ of the hated Ineos corporation at Grangemouth. 45 construction electricians, organised as part of the Scottish rank-and-file group of Unite, gathered to protest.
Many were working on a Balfour Beatty site at Grangemouth and were walking out for the day, pointing to the potential to shut down the sites unless the bosses back away from their attacks. There was a determined mood, with enthusiasm for maintaining weekly protests at big construction sites around Scotland every Wednesday morning. Socialist Party Scotland's leaflet was well received by those attending.
Philip Stott, Socialist Party Scotland
In The Socialist 10 March 2021:
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