On the Picket Line

Scaffolders fight contractor for pay raise in UK

By Pete Clifford
November 15, 2021

SCUNTHORPE, England — Now in their fourth week on strike, 60 steelworks scaffolders are fighting to force contractor Actavo to pay the national rate of 17 pounds an hour ($23.63). Workers get only 15 pounds now, and have the same take-home pay as six years ago. They maintain 500 scaffolding structures around the 7-mile-long British Steel works here.

“We’re learning fast that the union isn’t about someone helping you. It’s about us,” Unite union steward Dave Birchall told the Militant. “We began with two stewards but now we have a committee of eight to organize the strike and get support. We have meetings of all the strikers to decide what we do.”

Strikers won backing from the Unite Scunthorpe Steelworks branch. Along with the Community union, it organizes the 4,000 workers who work directly for British Steel at the site. Unite union branches in the area have contributed to the strike fund.

“We’re getting stronger as a union through this,” Birchall said. “We’ll be reaching workers at other Actavo sites in the area, asking for their support.” Strikers plan to visit scaffolders employed by contractor Altrad at Mitsubishi Chemicals in Stockton-on-Tees. They plan to begin strike action Nov. 4 against bosses who also undercut the national rate and pay them just 12.36 pounds an hour.