17/02/2012 | London IWW GMB – In what could be a major breakthrough for rank and file action, Balfour Beatty has withdrawn the imposed ‘BESNA’ contracts at the heart of a 7-month dispute. Balfour Beatty and six other construction companies were aiming to scrap longstanding pay and conditions arrangements and impose new contracts on sparks and other workers, involving deskilling and cuts in pay and allowances of up to 35% – with threats of dismissal for those not signing up.
It comes after Balfour Beatty failed this week to win an injunction to stop strike action by Unite. However the front-line battle has been fought over the last seven months by rank and file electricians organising on their own account. Hundreds of electricians have taken part in weekly protests throughout the country, including wildcat strikes when an earlier official strike vote was overturned by the courts. In London, early morning weekly actions (with London GMB members regularly attending in solidarity), included blockades of Park Lane and Oxford Street, invasions of Kings Cross and Cannon Street stations and demonstrations and occupations at Blackfriars, the Shard and other sites. At recent actions we distributed a Polish language flier translated and produced by London FWs which made the case against crossing picket lines.
Balfour Beatty abandoning this attack on workers is a real shot in the arm for rank and file direct action, but the sparks need to be vigilant – as Unite and Balfour Beatty promise future talks “to secure members’ livelihoods and the stability of the industry”. Rank and file organisers are carrying on the protests until the other six companies follow Balfour Beatty’s lead. As one of the sparks said: “Victory is near. Let’s not be rushed into a deal now.”
The London IWW congratulates the sparks on this inspiring victory, and pledges its support for future action…