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How can the sparks win?

The electricians have a only weeks left until their industry agreement is ripped up, how can the campaign escalate to beat the bosses back?

The electricians’ dispute has shown what a well organised rank and file movement can pull off today. From an initial conference in August to weekly protests and now a ballot of a thousand Balfour Beatty electricians, the sparks’ movement is an excellent model to follow.
But there is only a short time to go before the Joint Industry Board agreement is ripped up. Balfour Beatty will impose new contracts on 7 December, imposing a dramatic reduction in wages, by as much as 35 per cent in some cases.
As two of the Sparks’ leaders, Steve Kelly and Russ Blakely, wrote: “The construction employers were determined to create a docile and atomised workforce who would end up accepting almost anything.”
The campaign has focused on picketing out the sites of the seven major construction firms and demanding a national ballot. This was an excellent strategy but it hit two problems.
Firstly, the picketing has not been entirely successful; sites have only occasionally been shut down, and business has tended to carry on as normal, but with a noisy demo outside. On the London protests, activists often “take the road”, pulling people away from the more important task of picketing entrances or raiding sites. By the time the police come it is often easy for them to force a gap in the picket line to keep the site open.
Secondly Unite delayed calling any kind of ballot. Now only Balfour Beatty electricians are being balloted, and it has been left so late that no legal strike could start before 7 December, the day that workers are being forced to sign new contracts. Why are Balfour Beatty workers striking alone? Why has it been left so late?
There is still time to win the dispute, but the campaign, led by the Site Worker bulletin and supported by Grass Roots Left, needs to ratchet up a gear or two:
• Picket out the sites – only work stoppages will force concessions
• Strike against all the employers, not just Balfour Beatty
• Don’t wait for official ballots – use flying pickets to spread the action
• No return to work until the JIB agreement is reinstated for all – all out and stay out!

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