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Sparks promise wildcat strike wave

 An angry meeting of electricians fighting a 35 per cent cut to their pay pledged to escalate their campaign into wildcat strike action on Saturday.

Sparks from across the country who have been protesting at the sites of companies attempting to rip up the JIB working agreement piled into an eighty-strong meeting at the Manchester mechanics institute. The conference was tasked with discussing the next steps for the campaign, and electing a North West committee to coordinate grassroots action.

Many of those who attended had experienced the ruthlessness of big construction firms first-hand, and were working precarious jobs as a result of the infamous and illegal ‘blacklists’ of unionised and left-wing construction workers that are shared between contractors.

Steve Acheson, a victim of blacklisting himself explained how a £100 million Manchester City Hall contract had been awarded to one of the blacklisting companies. To a roar of applause from the audience he called for electricians to shut down construction sites across the UK, legally or otherwise. “The sooner we can drag them all out, the sooner this fight will be won!”

Jerry Hicks, former candidate for Unite General Secretary and member of the rank and file organisation Grassroots Left focussed on the need to organise from below, and stressed to the electricians that this was “their meeting.” He criticised the sluggish pace of the Unite leaders in calling for an official ballot, calling for an official Unite construction strike to coincide with public sector workers on 30 November, as well as wildcat action now to halt the greed of big business. “They’re going to take your money off you, turn you upside-down, and shake you in case you don’t want to give it to them…It’s the fight of our lives and we’ve got to win it.”

Points from the floor included messages of support from trade union activists outside of the sector, including from a Fujitsu worker that had recently taken part in strike action over vicitmisation. A heartfelt message from an NUM member spoke of his battle with Thatcher in the 1980s. “It’s up to us to fight for our childrens’ futures and our grandchildrens’ futures.”

The fiercest contributions came from electricians themselves, talking of the need to break the anti-union laws and shut down sites with strike action as quickly as possible.

The cheering and clapping when it was announced that workers on the Radcliffe-and-Soar power station would be walking out Friday was deafening.

Electricians have already forced one of eight construction companies to remain in the JIB agreement through their campaign, and with this escalation there was real confidence that the rest can and will be forced to follow suit as workers across the country follow the potential lead by those in Nottingham. And with the JIB set to be ripped up on 7 December there was unanimous agreement that this needs to happen right now. Just watch this space.

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