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Construction workers protest in Leeds

On Wednesday 1st Feb, around 60 construction workers and their supporters protested against the imposition of the new Besna contracts outside the Trinity Walk construction site in Leeds City Centre. They included delegations from Saltend and West Burton sites who had been at last weeks protest at the ConocoPhillips site in Immingham.

Iain Dalton, Leeds Socialist Party

The imposition of the contract will see a 35% cut in pay compared to the current JIB contract as is being carried out by seven of the largest firms in the industry. The result of a strike ballot at one of them, Balfour Beatty, will be announced tomorrow and UNITE representatives at the protest announced that ballots will soon follow at SPIE Matthew Hall and NG Bailey, to applause from many there keen to see the dispute escalated.

The Trinity Walk site has contractors on it from Crown House Technologies, one of the ‘Big 7’ companies that are trying to impose the new BESNA terms onto their employees. The presences of police officers and security guards on the gates made it difficult to discuss with workers on the site, which will see increasing numbers of electricians starting their over the next few months. However, many signed a petition organised by UNITE demanding that pay and conditions aren’t attacked by these companies.

After a short march up to the Civic Hall, this petition was presented to Peter Gruen, Deputy Leader of Leeds City Council. The council had been responsible for pushing the construction of the project forward and the workers demanding that they put pressure onto its owners to allow the union onto site to discuss with workers (officials had been blocked going on to site to speak to workers in the canteen). Although many workers were glad that Cllr Gruen offered to do what he could in regards to their case and those of defending jobs for all workers, this should probably be taken with a pinch of salt given the huge cuts to their own workforce that the Labour run council are presiding over, with opposition from the council unions.

Unite reps from the sites present will meet at the weekend to discuss where to hold next weeks protest.