The construction workers' dispute enters a new phase

21 Nov


Unite engineering construction workers protested in Glasgow City Centre on Saturday against seven major construction sector employers tearing up long standing collective agreements. The companies’ reneging on these agreements will lead to the unilateral imposition of a pay cut of about 30%.

This attack affects skilled workers in construction, including electricians, plumbers and heating and ventilation engineers. This attack on our members’ terms and conditions is being lead by Balfour Beatty, in what Jim Sheridan MP described as “a perfect example of corporate greed”.

Balfour Beatty saw a 32% rise in profit last year. We believe this is an opportunistic attempt to use the recession and the political climate to force through changes to terms and conditions that loot the wages of our members to increase profit.

However, Balfour Beatty’s employees are other companies’ customers. When wage packets are reduced, people have less spending power, and so the economy contracts. By cutting wages, companies like this risk forcing the UK back into recession. Conversely, the best way out of recession is to improve wages and terms and conditions so that people can spend back into the economy. For that reason, strong trade unions are vital to economic recovery.

In addition to wage cuts, there are also serious skills and health and safety concerns to the changes, that amount to dangerous cost cutting that could potentially put both construction workers and the public at risk. It is part of a concerted effort to weaken union power in the sector, and it comes on the back of years of blacklisting of union activists.

Here is an earlier video of a construction workers’ demonstration held in Cambuslang on 5 October, in which shop steward John Hay explains the issues.


The dispute with the construction firms has erupted nationally, with regular protest throughout the UK. For instance, here is footage of Scottish engineering construction workers protesting outside a construction industry awards ceremony at the Radisson Hotel in Glasgow in October.

This attempt by major companies to undermine collective agreements is the same issue that lead to walk outs at Lindsey refinery in 2009, when the employer tried to undermine the NAECI agreement and use the EU posted workers directive to import cheap foreign labour.

Here is a Union News video report of the current state of the dispute at Lindsey:

There is clearly growing anger, as our members have demonstrated that they are not prepared to accept this assault on their terms and conditions. A major day of action was held in London on 9 November, where general secretary Len McCluskey addressed construction workers.

The anger is also clear to see in this footage shot on the same day as construction workers attempt to join student protesters and the Occupy movement in London.

 – by Walton Pantland


One Response to “The construction workers' dispute enters a new phase”


  1. Social Network Unionism - November 21, 2011

    […] Seven major employers, lead by the highly profitable Balfour Beatty, have pulled out of agreements, lowering wages by 30% causing a ruckus […]

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