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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


Mahle Update: No hollow rhetoric over Kilmarnock engineering jobs, says Unite

3 Nov

Unite Scotland has told Mahle Directors at a heated meeting this morning that ‘hollow rhetoric’ over the future of jobs at the Kilmarnock plant will be resisted.

Unite Regional Officer Jim Winter said, Mahle Director Matthias Langbein informed us that the company will now conduct a viability study into the future of the Kilmarnock plant.  Further investigation into the impact of consolidating bushings production in Italy and Slovakia will also be undertaken as part of this process.  We expect this to be presented in four weeks.

We are now at a critical juncture.  There can be no doubt that the workforce feels totally betrayed by Matthias Langbein’s actions to this point.  Mahle must now demonstrate that their study will be genuine and objective. 

This plant is viable and its world-class engineering is profitable. We have made it absolutely clear that if this morning’s meeting proves to be nothing more than hollow rhetoric then we will use every means available to resist the unnecessary off-shoring of skilled jobs from Kilmarnock.”

Unite Scotland will continue to campaign for the retention of these skilled jobs in Kilmarnock throughout the timescale of Mahle’s study.


Notes to Editors:  For further information please contact Unite Regional Industrial Officer Jim Winter on 07739654856 or Peter Welsh in the Unite Scotland Campaigns Unit on 0781015931.

No justification for further job cuts at Kilmarnock engineering plant

2 Nov

Unite Scotland members at Mahle Engine Systems will tell senior management there is no justification to cut more jobs at the Kilmarnock plant at a crucial summit tomorrow morning (Thursday 3rd November).

Top Mahle Director Matthias Langbein has told workers that the Kilmarnock plant’s lucrative bushings operation will be off-shored to sites in Italy and Slovakia, impacting 72 highly-skilled engineering jobs.  This follows last week’s announcement that a £4 million a year contract with Ford for the manufacture of automotive bearings would be phased-out due to price increases, at a cost of 61 jobs

In a fresh twist workers have learned that Mahle has offered profitable parts of the existing Ford contract to the car giant at a reduced price increase in its Slovakia plant, significantly less than the asking price at Kilmarnock.  Now workers have to contend with the double-whammy that Mahle also want to consolidate its lucrative bushings operation to mainland Europe.

Unite Regional Officer Jim Winter said, “Mahle Directors have arrived in Kilmarnock to offshore highly skilled and profitable engineering jobs without consultation – its breathtaking arrogance. 

It is also disgraceful that Mahle are undercutting and asset-stripping Kilmarnock against its sister sites in Italy and Slovakia; sites that do not have the same level of engineering expertise and – in the case of the Dolny Kubin plant in Slovakia – the quality requirements for the manufacturing of components in the automotive industry.

There is absolutely no justification for this whatsoever. Everything Mahle requires for profitable, world-class manufacturing is right here in Kilmarnock and Matthias Langbein should be in no doubt that we will use every means necessary to defend these jobs.”  

Tomorrow’s meeting will take place on-site at the Mahle Kilmarnock Plant from 8AM.

Notes to Editors:

(1)   Mahle manufactures world-class components for the automotive industry; its clients include car manufacturers from the Formula 1 and top-range motor vehicle markets.

(2)   Mahle employs 580 local workers in a variety of highly-skilled engineering and administrative roles.

(3)   To receive a copy of the Mahle ‘Business Simplification Plan’ relating to the Ford contract please email –

For further information: Please contact Unite Regional Industrial Officer Jim Winter on 07739654856, Unite Convenor in Mahle Kilmarnock John Hawkshaw 07805039035 and Peter Welsh, Unite Scotland Campaigns on 0781015931.

Unite to a Better Way through Skills Utilisation

14 Apr

Scottish Union Learn will showcase one example of the work Unite has done in Skills Utilisation within the workplace at the STUC Congress. A fringe meeting/reception will be held on Monday, 18th April 2011 at 5.30pm in the Roman Warrior Suite of the Ayr Racecourse.

Ian Gray Adult Apprentice

The meeting will feature a short video demonstrating the contribution that Unite the Union can make to improved skills utilisation in workplaces. Working with ASLEF and ScotRail, Unite has developed, facilitated and supported an Adult Apprenticeship programme for Semi-Skilled workers within ScotRail’s Shields and Corkerhill Depots in Glasgow.

The Adult Apprenticeship programme gives opportunities to members who have worked in the railways for years and have hit a glass ceiling in progressing to A Grade Fitter from B Grade Fitter due to not having completed an apprenticeship. Prior to commencing on the Adult Apprenticeship programme, members undertook a 20 hour Brush Up Your Skills course  delivered by Stow College’s trade union education department on site at the depot. This Brush Up Your Skills course refreshed members skills, enabling them to take on the task of producing a portfolio that is required to evidence their knowledge for their Scottish Vocational Qualification Level 3 (SVQ 3).

Benny McGinlay Adult Apprentice

The programme brings members up to SVQ Level 3 and gives them a National Certificate in Engineering. The programme has been developed in conjunction with SEMTA, the Sector Skills Council for Science, Engineering and Manufacturing Technologies. SEMTA supports UK businesses in achieving global competitiveness through investment in skills. The programme that Unite members are undertaking at ScotRail, is a bespoke development to meet the needs of ScotRail and the daily tasks that A Grade Fitters within the railway are required to perform.

This is another good example of where Unite has identified a learning need of our membership within an employer and developed a programme to meet the needs of both our members and the employer that they work for.

Download flyer for event here.

John Malone: Learning Journey to a Degree

8 Apr

– by Pat McIlvogue

Profile of a Unite union learner: John Malone

John Malone is an ordinary working class family man with all the usual stresses and strains that modern life brings to a family. Having been away from learning for over two decades there was a real apprehension and fear for John to return to learning: Am I too old to learn? Can I spare the time? Can I afford the cost of learning? Can I face returning to an educational institution?

These barriers to learning that existed for John were removed by that fact that all of John’s learning was done within his workplace of Rolls-Royce Inchinnan through a workplace learning programme that is provided by Unite the Union, the Open University and Rolls-Royce.

The Unite the Union lifelong learning programme in Scotland gave the opportunity to return to learning to members in John’s workplace who have been away from learning for many years. The learners like John who attended courses provided by Unite would not have returned to learning due to previous bad experiences at school or college or had been away from learning for so long that they would not have had the confidence to return to a learning environment. The learning that John undertook was brought into his workplace at Rolls-Royce Inchinnan by Unite arranged around their rotating shift patterns, delivered in their workplace in a familiar environment alongside people that they are comfortable with.

John has been part of Unite’s learning programme at Rolls-Royce Inchinnan since early 2007. In that time he has taken part in the following courses: Introduction to Conversational Spanish in 2007 provided by Stow College’s TUC department. This course gave John the confidence to return to the learning environment and gave John the learning bug. John continued learning this time with an ICT course PC Passport. PC Passport was an 18 month course due to John’s shift patterns. PC Passport incorporated Using Computers Stages 1, 2, & 3.  John started PC Passport in August 2007 and completed it in 2009, all the ICT courses that John undertook were delivered in his workplace around his shift pattern by Stow College’s TUC department.

John then undertook European Computer Driving Licence modules from October 2009. Having built up reasonable ICT skills John felt confident enough to embark on a degree in Engineering  with the Open University (BEng) in February 2010. To date John has passed all of his tutor marked assignments- John’s average scoring for the tutor marked assignments was 84%. John also passed his end of year exam with flying colours. These achievements now supplement John’s qualification from his apprenticeship and youth which include City & Guilds in Mechanical Engineering, City & Guilds CNC Basic Programming & City & Guilds Quality Assurance Part 1.

The Open University course that John is undertaking is made up of the usual distance learning with the addition of on site tutorials and support at John’s workplace of Rolls-Royce. This Pathway to a Degree programme is part of Unite, Rolls-Royce and the Open University’s learning programme at Rolls-Royce Inchinnan that facilitates opportunities in learning within the workplace for learners who would not have had them otherwise.

The learning programmes that John has undertaken in the last 3 years have made John a more confident person. They have also facilitated a development in his work role as well as his personal life. John has been empowered through learning to take on additional roles within his workplace team at Rolls-Royce Inchinnan.

John Malone is a living, breathing role model to all that you are never to old to return to learning. John has been an inspiration to others in his workplace to follow his road back into learning. John is now looking to put something back into learning by taking on some part time tutoring. The enthusiasm that John has shown for learning demonstrates that ordinary working people who work unsocial hours can get back into learning despite having been decades away from learning.

John Malone is a role model in learning for Unite the Union and John’s story is being cascaded out to other trade union members not only in Unite but across all trade unions in Scotland to encourage others to get back into learning.

If you to would like to embark on a Learning Journey please contact your local Union Learning Rep or Regional Learning Organiser.