On the Picket Line

Scaffolders strike giant steel works in United Kingdom

By Pamela Holmes
and Jonathan Silberman
November 1, 2021

SCUNTHORPE, England —– Scaffolders at the giant British Steel site here, members of the Unite union, have been on strike since Oct. 4.

They are demanding their basic wage be raised in line with the National Agreement for the Engineering Construction Industry. Currently they receive 2 pounds ($2.75) per hour less.

“Our take-home pay is much the same as six years ago,” shop steward Dave Birchall told the Militant Oct. 18. “Not only that, we used to get double time for night shift. Now we get time-and-a-third.” Shift allowances and sick pay have also been cut.

The 60 workers are employed by Actavo, which took over the contract Feb. 15. Five Actavo workers who were transferred to the plant from other sites are paid the higher engineering construction industry rate. They’re on strike too. “We’re solid,” Birchall said. “Our next step is setting up a strike committee to involve more of the workers and get a brazier and gazebo.” The strikers are holding marches each Monday.

Earlier this year when they were employed by contractor Brand Energy, scaffolders carried out three 48-hour stoppages. “The company asked people to come in on the weekend to make up the lost work. So we decided it had to be all out,” Dave MacDougall said.

The strikers’ fight has won backing from other scaffolders at the plant, also Unite members employed by different companies. “We started picketing from 5:30 to 9:30 a.m., but extended it to 4 p.m. and on the weekend to make sure that contract companies couldn’t change their start time to avoid the picket line that union scaffolders won’t cross,” shop steward Dane Whittingham said.