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Support the Electricians! North East report - 7 Sep 2011

electricians-demoSupport the Electricians! No to de-skilling, no to pay cuts! North East report - 7 Sep 2011

On Wednesday 7 September, supporters of FRFI north east joined an early morning demonstration of around 40 electricians from Unite the union, protesting against eight major electrical employers threatening to withdraw from the Joint Industry Board (JIB) national industry agreement.

Bailey Building Services, Balfour Beatty Engineering Services, Tommy Clarke, Crown House Technologies, Gratte Brothers, MJN Colston, SES and SPIE Matthew Hall are proposing to withdraw from national collective agreements by March 2012, seeking to drive down conditions and pay.

The employers have set 3 new grades for electricians: metalworker £10.50 per hour, Wiring £12, Terminating £14. The current electricians JIB rate is £16.25p per hour across the board. For the worst hit this amounts to a 35% pay cut. Meanwhile, the chief executive of Balfour Beatty gave himself an 8% pay rise last year.

The proposals will effectively de-skill electricians who have worked to gain JIB recognised skills and corresponding pay grades. Site managers will solely dictate the makeup of work teams and therefore the pay grade of each worker on each team.  Redundancy provision, the guaranteed working week, mileage allowances, double time and apprenticeships will all be negotiated locally with each site rather than be accountable to a national agreement. The employers’ proposals also include a no strike clause, attempting to prevent industrial action.

The last time the electrical contractors attempted to cut wages by de-skilling the electrical trade in 1999 it provoked a series of coordinated strikes on the Jubilee Line, Royal Opera House, Pfizers and power generation projects across the UK.  Present on the early morning demonstration were electricians who had fought the de-skilling attempts in 1999, where employers Drake + Scull and Balfour Kilpatrick had attempted to bribe shop stewards, into agreeing to end industrial action. The shop stewards refused the bribe and recorded it, industrial action continued and the deskilling proposals were shelved. However the companies then blacklisted every worker on the Royal Opera House and Jubilee Line extension projects.

The Newcastle demonstration was in coordination with early morning demonstrations called in London and Manchester and was an unofficial action of rank and file members coordinated around facebook and the Site Worker magazine. It was encouraging to see grass roots organization bypassing union bureaucracy and action being taken. Despite Unite the Union paying lip service to the struggle not one of the union reps for the North East Unite in construction sector bothered to turn up. The electricians on the demonstration discussed planning further protests and taking steps to organise banners and leaflets for agitational propaganda.  This independent working class action must be supported and encouraged.

Day X3 – Protests against cuts and fees – Newcastle – 9 Dec 2010

The determination of the thousands of students who demonstrated in Newcastle on Thursday 9 December was an inspiration. For over six hours they protested, blocking roads and bringing Newcastle to a standstill for much of that time. As hundreds quickly assembled at Monument, any hope the police might have had that demonstrators would stick to a pre-arranged route went out the window, as the students took off spontaneously in the direction of the Tyne Bridge. After making it onto a busy roundabout, police brought in vehicles and blocked off the entrance to the Tyne Bridge. The demonstration then moved to another bridge across the Tyne, but were again blocked by police, who this time attacked protestors with fists and headbutts, leaving several bloody.

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No cuts to ESOL! – 24 March 2011

No cuts to ESOL! – 24 March 2011

On Thursday 24th March Tyneside Community Action Against Racism led a march against cuts to English lessons for speakers of other languages (ESOL). Around 200 people marched through the city centre to Grey’s Monument for a rally, where people who depend on ESOL fearlessly got up to speak to defend their right to education. It was a lively action, lots of banners, placards and chanting “They say integration! We say education!” Newcastle College and the Angelou Centre helped to mobilise ESOL students and lecturers and people generally against the cuts to come out to defend ESOL provision. The message was clear: we need to fight against all cuts and cuts to ESOL represent institutional racism aimed at dividing the fight back.

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Northern march against racism 2010, Newcastle 20 November

On Saturday 20 November, several hundred people participated in the Northern March Against Racism 2010 in Newcastle. The march was called by Tyneside Community Action Against Racism (TCAR), which members and supporters of the RCG were instrumental in founding in 2005. The march aimed to build links and solidarity between the struggles against Britain’s racist immigration laws, its detention centres and deportations, those fighting the racism of the British police and prisons and the criminalisation of Muslims through terror laws and anti-Muslim racism, and those struggling against street racism and the violence of groups like the English Defence League (EDL). The march was a resounding success, supported by over a dozen organisations and trade union branches from across the North of England and Scotland, and coinciding with demonstrations for asylum rights in Glasgow and Sheffield. Speakers at the rally and the post-march social repeatedly pointed to the international character of the British ruling class’s attacks on the working class and oppressed, and the need for people in Britain to make common cause with those who have been fighting back for years, from the DRC, to Nigeria, to Afghanistan, to Palestine, to migrant workers and refugees within Britain. This sent a clear, determined and principled anti-racist message, which has set the context for the emerging movements against the cuts in the region.

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Israel and Britain on trial for War Crimes. Newcastle 3rd July

Israel and Britain on trial for War Crimes. Newcastle 3rd July

On Saturday 3rd of July; the Palestine Action Group put Israel on Trial for War Crimes in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. The street theatre took place on Northumberland Street; outside Marks and Spencer; the biggest British corporate sponsor of Israel which sits of the British-Israeli Chamber of Commerce and states “furthering the economic development of Israel” as one of its aims in “the M+S way”. The people’s court began at 12 noon as witnesses gave reports of war crimes committed from the establishment of Israel as a racist settler state in 1948; to the recent murderous attack on the Free Gaza flotilla on the 31st of May 2010. Although Israel ignored the charges of War crimes; Israel was found guilty of 8 charges which included;

The establishment of a fundamentally racist; Zionist; colonial settler state in Palestine. Since 1948 more than 530 villages have been destroyed, over 750,000 Palestinians have been expelled and made homeless, 50% of the West bank has been stolen for the expansion of Israel. UN in 1975 ruled "Zionism is a form of racism and radical discrimination,"
  • The construction of illegal settlements in West Bank and Jerusalem. This is illegal under UN law and amounts to the theft of land and racist annexation. Up to late December 2008, Israel had built 233 colonial settlements in the Occupied Territories, which are now home to 497,500 settlers.
  • The routine use of collective punishment, imprisonment without trial, torture and assassinations. Since 1967, more than 650,000 Palestinians have been detained. There are currently 312 Palestinian children in Israeli custody; fifty- five percent of these were arrested for throwing stones at Israeli soldiers.
  • The illegal construction of an apartheid wall around the West bank; Under Article of the international convention on the suppression and punishment of the crime of Apartheid (1979), the wall divides population on the basis of race and ethnicity and discriminates against residents in the west bank to benefit illegal Israeli settlers and thus complies with the definition of “Apartheid”.
  • The intentional destruction of Palestinian economy, agriculture and livelihood. After the January 2009 “operation cast lead”; 22,000 buildings in the Gaza strip were partially or completely destroyed and 300,000 people were left without running water; Gazan agriculture was decimated with financial losses estimated at $200 million. Israeli forces deliberately destroyed greenhouses, egg incubators, wells, irrigation systems and farmland.
  • The 22 day massacre of over 1,400 residents of Gaza January 2009 which left over 5000 injured. Israeli forces used UN prohibited White Phosphorus and DIME explosives and repeatedly targeted schools and hospitals.
  • 3 year siege of Gaza which has caused massive suffering; preventing fuel building materials and other essentials from entering Gaza and contributing to many unnecessary deaths. Since 2007; Israel has closed all 5 border crossings leaving three quarters of a million people dependent on UN food aid which is not always allowed to cross the border.
  • The Attacks on Gaza freedom flotilla on the 31st of May 2010, when Israeli Commando forces illegally stormed the freedom flotilla in international waters with live ammunition, sound grenades and tear gas leaving 9 civilians dead; many more missing and over 60 injured.

Britain was also charged for the war crimes of supporting Israel’s establishment and funding and arming Israel throughout its existence. British export licences granted for arms sales to Israel were worth £11.5 million in 2004, £22.5 million in 2005 and £24 million in the first six months of 2008.

To find out more email Palestine Action Group on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or phone 07858346276