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Mick Dooley: we need to transform the unions

Mick Dooley is a member of UCATT and will be speaking at Anticapitalism on building resistance in an age of austerity

In the construction industry there are approximately two million people but the unions have only recruited around 100,000. Traditional methods of organising the trade unions must obviously be continually re-examined due to the changing nature of industry and the workplace. For example, in the construction industry a building project which 25 year ago took four years to complete would now take less than two years . This means there is less scope today for establishing and building the same effective trade union organisation on a building site in the same ways as before.
Countering this, my view is for a strong emphasis on organising within the geographical area via trade union support for community activity at as many levels as possible, so that construction workers living within that community will have knowledge of or come into contact with their union outside the workplace.
Given that most workers will work within a 50-mile radius of their home, the same workers on each building site will become familiar with the union’s name – if there’s any union presence on the site – by community activity, assertive community action and a strong media profile, extending into the workplace. Short of industrial action, the confidence and expectation of workers has to be raised, making it easier for workers to identify with an organisation, collective strength, beneficial to their interests at work and within the communities in which they live.
The transition from workers being more than just a card carryingunion member could be made by workers joining in or engaging with tactics employed by the union to improve conditions.
A robust group of dedicated trade union organisers who are effective in community campaigning committed to building an assertive trade union in the construction industry is a necessary ingredient in revitalising the spirit of resistance of building workers today.
New issues will always arise and we must be prepared to maximise the opportunities and to capitalise on any discontent caused by wage cuts, poor safety, bullying and any other practice which will inevitably come about as the current crisis in capitalism grows and deepens.
I believe this is doable, I’m prepared to make it happen and if necessary to take steps to thwart the anti-trade union laws. I know it is possible to effectively challenge these laws. We live in a world which is governed by law, the same law that allows 13 bullets to be pumped into the head of Jean Charles de Menezes, or for Ian Tomlinson to be battered to death in front of thousands of people, for extradition flights to Guantanamo Bay and the mass murder and bombing of civilians in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. That can be legal if it is in the name of democracy. I am certain that workers have the legal right to withdraw their labour if they choose to do so.

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