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Electricians protest in Bradford and London as boss declares Besna 'finished'

by Simon Basketter

Construction workers blocked the roads outside Morrisons

Construction workers blocked the roads outside Morrisons' headquarters in Bradford this morning, Wednesday (Pic: Will Howlett)


Update (Wed, 4.30pm): NG Bailey has now withdrawn from Besna.

Electricians are continuing to hold protests as bosses’ attacks on them descend into chaos. Workers protested against NG Bailey in Bradford and London this morning, Wednesday.

Originally eight companies had broken from electricians’ JIB national agreement and threatened to impose a new agreement called Besna. This would have cut wages by 35 percent and introduced new unskilled grades.

The largest of the firms, Balfour Beatty, pulled out of Besna last week following escalating pressure from the Unite union and rank and file electricians. Another company, MJ Coulson, had pulled out earlier due to the workers’ campaign.

One construction boss told the industry press that, “One thing is definite, Besna is finished.

“Balfour bottled it. I can’t see how they can try again after handing the initiative to Unite like that.”

The six remaining firms – NG Bailey, Crown House, Gratte Brothers, Spie Matthew Hall, Shepherd Engineering Services and T Clarke are meeting today.

They will try and work out a strategy.

Unite is set to issue strike ballot notices to Spie Matthew Hall and NG Bailey.

This morning in London up to 100 electricians and supporters protested at the NG Bailey job at King’s Cross station.

They chanted, “Balfour, Balfour, Balfour – Beaten, Beaten, Beaten!” and “Bailey, Bailey, Bailey – Next, Next, Next!”

A number of speakers celebrated the success of the campaign.

One electrician told Socialist Worker, “Now we’ve seen one company off, we need to push ahead. Let’s turn it around and use what we’ve built so far to get decent conditions on the job.

“Let’s organise to take the fight to them. Let’s make the JIB something useful.”

In Bradford some 60 construction workers forced Morrisons’ headquarters to close.

Morrisons have a multimillion pound contract with NG Bailey.

A coachload of workers came from Hull and some students from Bradford and Leeds joined the protest.

They picketed the front gate and refused to move unless Morrisons’ management met them.

Pete, an electrician who helped organise the protest, told Socialist Worker, “We had traffic backed up to the motorway and into Bradford city centre. A Hovis baking plant nearby had to shut because no one could get to work.

“One union official had to get out of his car and walk for 20 minutes to get to the picket.”

Police turned up and told workers that they couldn’t block the gates as they were obstructing business. Pete said, “We marched around to keep the gate blocked. The police didn’t know what to do.”

Pickets decided to allow vehicles into Morrisons at around 9.15am on the condition that they could leaflet every car that went in. Police agreed.

Pete said, “This was a rank and file initiated protest and it shows the struggle goes on.”


Article information

News
Wed 22 Feb 2012, 11:04 GMT
Issue No. 2291
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