Beating the blacklist, constructively

… and the anti-union laws.

It’s possible:

Victory against the blacklist
By Steve Kelly (London Construction Unite)
Tuesday, 26 August 2008

The blacklist in construction is back with a vengeance. It is a well known fact that the blacklist has been used against construction workers for many years especially since the Shrewsbury strike in 1972.

It was always difficult to prove, but in 2006 a case involving three Manchester electricians who were sacked from a job at the Royal Infirmary Hospital in Manchester (having been elected by the workers on that site as their shop stewards and safety rep), was heard at industrial tribunal brought by the T&GWU, now Unite, for unfair dismissal. Evidence was bought to the tribunal by an ex-employee of a well known electrical contractor called Haden. Alan Wainwright swore on oath that indeed a blacklist was most definitely in operation and there was a list of 500 electricians who had worked on the Jubilee Line extension, Pizers (in Kent), and the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden .

These sites were all organised by electricians in the past with elected shop stewards and safety reps .Any action taken on those sites would have been unofficial action which annoys firms as well as union bureaucrats. In construction that’s always been the case, and will continue to be so, due to the nature of the industry. Strike while the IRON IS HOT so to speak. The three electricians in Manchester eventually won the tribunal for unfair dismissal, sacked for organising in a trade union.

Two of the workers recently got work after bravely demonstrating outside the site every day since May 2006. A third worker, Steve Acheson, was still struggling to find work up to 3 weeks ago. Steve was offered a job at the Fiddlers Ferry power station in Warrington. Three weeks ago he was told he could start along with 20 others. Two hours later Steve was told by the company on site they only needed 19 workers .Seems like they realised who Steve was (steward from MRI).

The workers on site immediately said they would walk off the job unless Steve was employed. It was obvious to them the blacklist was being used against Steve. Unite full time officers were called in for talks with the company to avert a walkout by the men. After 4 weeks Steve had still not be offered a job on the site. On the 14th August the workers on site told the union that if Steve was not on the job by Monday 18th August they would not go into work and picket lines would be set up for Monday morning.

The other trades assured the electricians of their full support. Steve Acheson was given a job on the site within a couple of hours. This shows how, if workers unite and stick together and defend their fellow workers, the blacklist can be defeated. This kind of action may be necessary in the future – most likely on the Olympic project in Stratford, which is rumoured to need 9,000 workers when it is in full swing.

The main lesson here is all construction workers should join a union and take unofficial where necessary, especially when told not to by trade union officials. They would say we are breaking the law. Rank and file trade unionists have been doing that since 1834!

Unity is strength!

The workers united can never be defeated!

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English eyes are smiling?

Some good news, first: those nice people at, erm, NICE (the National Institute for Clinical Excellency) have reversed their position on the sight drug Lucentis. Patients with age-related macular degeneration will now be able to receive the drug from the NHS on diagnosis, rather than having to wait until they are blind in one eye.

The Lucentis saga might not have happened if we had a) an English parliament controlling the NHS and b) public ownership of the pharmaceutical companies.

The bad news is that doctors are failing to inform cancer patients of drugs they could get for their illness:

A quarter of specialists polled by Myeloma UK said they hid facts about treatments for bone marrow cancer that may be difficult to obtain on the NHS.

Doctors said they did not want to “distress, upset or confuse” patients if drugs had not yet been approved by the NHS drugs watchdog NICE.

Primary Care Trusts can provide drugs ahead of NICE approval but many do not.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence is currently reviewing several treatments for myeloma, including the drug Revlimid (lenalidomide) which trials suggest could extend the life of patients by three years.

One in four of the 103 myeloma specialists in England, Wales and Scotland questioned confessed that they had avoided telling patients about licensed drugs still awaiting approval by NICE.

And more bad news is that the English NHS is heading for a huge surplus – meaning that money that could have been spent on treating the sick now has been held for – what purpose? Future investment, possibly. But in future, will this be the profit margin, near two billion pounds…

Cold Wars and kettles

The roots of the recent events in Georgia (the nicest possible way to describe what was a hot war) lie in Kosovo’s declaration of independence earlier this year being recognised by several European powers & the US, of course – the Russian bear didn’t growl at the time. When Georgia began an attempt to recapture South Ossetia and Abkhazia, Russia responded with a massive assault on Georgia’s US-sponsored military infrastructure, and shortly after, a ground invasion.

It’s not my business to take sides in a war between two capitalist states, but it’s worth noting that Georgia initiated the fight (lesson: don’t poke bears if you don’t want to be mauled) at a time when its Western-backed US-educated President has faced massive demonstrations from the opposition.

Russia is now recognising the independence of the two break-away states, something which is infuriating the UK and US governments, and other big players within the EU.

Now, I can’t see a quick entry into the Russian Federation for either Abkhazia or South Ossetia – it would be too obvious – but it’s clear that this recognition of independence is self-serving. A few years down the line, there could possibly be the integration of the two new states within the Russian Federation – which has waited seventeen years to recognise their independence, note well. It’s also worth noting that Georgia, etc., were part of the Russian Empire, which pre-dated the Soviet Union. (So, can the anti-communist sloganeering please stop? Oh, thought not.) Within the Soviet union Ossetia and Georgia were administratively separate and the Russian govt argues Georgia annexed S. Ossetia on declaring independence. All very complicated.

So, One might ask what the fuck has all this got to do with us in Little England, or as the Brown government prefers to call it, Big Britain? Foreign Secretary David Milibliar is trying to cobble together an anti-Russian alliance with a trip to the Ukraine. Georgia and the Ukraine should be allowed to join Nato, says he, echoing the rhetoric of his clone David Cameron who has visited Georgia already. (Word is that wee David has hired “Ian Hargreaves, one-time editor of The Independent, policy wonk at Ofcom and PR man for BAA” to assist with his leadership bid debate on New Labour’s future.)

Aside from the oil factor, I wonder, are they lying when they say it’d be easy to get an alternative route to Afghanistan if the Russians cut of access through their airspace? I wonder, because that particular conflict isn’t going well – mass civilian casualties, a stream of military deaths and injuries, etc.