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Sparks’ campaign moves on

The electricians’ – or sparks’ – struggle against new contracts on the building sites that would have resulted in a 35 per cent pay cut has led to a stunning victory for the workers and humiliation for the bosses, showing the strength, power and effectiveness of militant rank and file organisation. Rix Bragg reports

As we reported last month and throughout their six month campaign, the sparks and their supporters leafleted sites, unionised builders, mounted wildcat walkouts, protested outside (and inside) the employers’ dinner parties, picketed high profile constructions and badgered their union leaders until they balloted for strike action. And throughout the campaign, they elected their own, unofficial leadership to prosecute their struggle. A model for all trade union activists.

Now any hope the bosses and union leaders might have had that having won the sparks would settle down quietly into their old roles has been dashed, as the workers turn their attention and efforts against the continuing injustices of blacklisting and agency work.

At a national rank and file meeting in Manchester a 20-point programme was agreed, calling for, among other things: an end to blacklisting, wage equality, better rights to organise unions on site and better pay and conditions.

The meeting also agreed to begin weekly protests outside large London construction sites, the first of which was held outside the Shard on the 14 March, as part of the campaign against the use of agency workers, who, while doing the same job, are paid a fraction of industry standard wages and denied the benefits, job security and conditions enjoyed by others.

By applying the same, phenomenally successful tactics that they used against the bosses during the electricians’ dispute, the sparks can win their demands that all workers on site receive equal pay and conditions, and could even – finally – shred the blacklist.

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