Wednesday 05 October 2011
Heavy-handed police disrupted a peaceful electricians' protest in central London today over pay and conditions.
The police tore down banners and Unite union flags, attempting to force the 200-strong protest off the road.
The electricians' demonstration, which started at 6.30am, was held outside a building site run by contractor Tommy Clarke.
The workers held a rally in the middle of an intersection at Oxford Street, briefly blocking traffic.
The contractor is one of seven companies which have declared their intention to pull out of national negotiating body the Joint Industry Board (JIB) and impose a 35 per cent cut in pay for skilled workers.
Despite dozens of police officers moving in to disperse the protest, they were unable to prevent workers marching down Oxford Street to call on the contractors to return to the JIB.
During the altercations, protest organisers called on participants not to react to the provocation.
"Keep your hands in your pockets lads - this is a peaceful protest," yelled leading Ucatt campaigner Mick Dooley (pictured).
Finally workers gathered outside Mr Clarke's building site at Park House, calling on his staff to walk off the job and join the protest.
Unite London regional committee member Richard Allday said: "Don't let the governor intimidate you. Come and join us."
Although no workers walked off the job, Unite official Vince Passfield went into the site for a meeting with Mr Clarke's bosses, much to the delight of protesters outside.
Ucatt general secretary contender Mr Dooley urged workers to come back "and be prepared to occupy building sites and shut down production."
Mr Dooley attacked the anti-trade union laws and said: "We don't need lawyers and judges to tell us what to do.
"We don't ask anyone's permission to earn a decent living."
He called for combined tactics of official and unofficial action to get contractors to halt their plans.
Activist Eddie Current said: "This dispute is not about Polish or Portuguese workers.
"It is about money-grabbing multinational building firms, trying to drive up their profits by driving down our wages."
Unite regional officer Guy Langston and Unite national officer Harry Cowap praised the demonstration to the Star and said the show strength by rank-and-file members had been "fantastic."
Mr Langston urged Tommy Clarke and others to get back round the negotiating table, while Mr Cowap promised a winter-long battle.
"Get ready, get your woollen hats on. We will be here protesting until the employers see sense."
And Mr Cowap received roars of approval after calling on the sparks to go back and bring "thousands" to the next demonstration outside the Tate next Wednesday.