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Stop the Crossrail sackings!
Rob Williams, National Shop Stewards Network chair
For the third Monday in succession, construction workers and their supporters held a protest outside a Crossrail site to demand that a worker sacked for raising safety issues be reinstated.
Two weeks ago, protesters blocked the road outside the Bond Street site in London after an electrician was sacked after he had asked for a proper walkway with hand rails. During that protest, we got word that he had been out on fully paid 'gardening leave' while his union Unite waited for a meeting to discuss what job he would be put on.
His 'employer', an agency that is subcontracting to a consortium of known blacklisters, Skanska and Costain, has now written to him saying that it is confirming what it told him originally, that he was 'let go' because of lack of work. Yet it told him before his one week of employment that there were three years of work!
We stopped the traffic outside the site last time but this time the police were mob-handed. So workers just had an impromptu march up the middle of Oxford Street behind the National Shop Stewards Network banner to the Hanover Square site where we blocked the delivery gates!
Last Monday, there was a protest outside the Whitechapel Crossrail site because workers had been let go, as in sacked, after they had requested torches that could be attached to their helmets because it was so dark in the tunnels.
On the Saturday after the workers were dismissed, there were 13 incidents where workers fell because it was too dark! There is now a video going round Facebook which shows the reality of working conditions in the Whitechapel tunnels.
To show how serious this issue is, workers went from the Whitechapel protest to a vigil outside the St Pancras coroner's court as the inquest began into the death last year of Crossrail worker Rene Tkacik. It's a scandal that workers are getting sacked for nothing more than raising health and safety issues when someone has actually died on the job.
And this victimisation is happening at the very time that the long running blacklisting case continues at the High Court! All this on the biggest public sector contract in the UK, with its £15 billion worth of taxpayers' money.
Many workers will be asking if this is revenge for the reinstatement last year of Frank Morris (who has just been elected onto the Unite executive committee), after being sacked by Crossrail contractor BFK.
All these issues are tied up together. The bosses, in conjunction with government, want maximum profit from a public contract, which means screwing workers. Crossrail should be a flagship project with direct employment on JIB pay and terms and conditions. Yet it's mainly the normal scandalous agency/umbrella contracting, with blacklisting continuing.
This coming Saturday, activists from the building trade will be meeting in Glasgow at a joint meeting of the Blacklist Support Group and Unite Construction Rank and File. They will be discussing all the issues in construction and how to defeat the bosses' current offensive on Crossrail.
Some workers have raised whether Unite should call a national demonstration and lobby Boris Johnson, tied to a leverage campaign. The NSSN would support these initiatives but they must be linked to building the unions on the Crossrail sites, which is the only way to beat the 'hire and fire' regime.
This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 2 March 2015 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.