On the Picket Line

UK steel scaffolder strikers escalate fight, solidarity is key

By Pete Clifford
December 6, 2021

SCUNTHORPE, England — Sixty scaffolders on strike at the giant British Steel site here since Oct. 4 are escalating their fight for pay parity and efforts to win support from steelworkers in the plant and across the region.

The Unite union members, who are employed by contractor Actavo, are demanding their wages be raised by 2 pounds ($2.75) to match the national rate for other workers doing these jobs.

“Most sites are paying the national rate,” says Dave Birchall, shop steward for the strikers, “but here they always have a reason not to, like claiming orders are falling. It used to be Brexit, then it was COVID and now they use COP26 climate issues. Anything but pay us the rate.”

Strikers leafleted steelworkers going into work at all three gates of the plant Nov. 15. Their leaflets asked workers to raise with their union representatives concerns about the safety of scaffolding put up on the site during the strike.

Pickets have also been visiting other major industrial sites where fellow scaffolders work. At an “informational action” at the nearby Keadby power station Nov. 4, strikers were joined by union representatives at the plant. They have also appealed for support to workers at the Drax and Ferrybridge power stations in Yorkshire, the nearby Stallingborough power station, Vivergo refinery in Hull, and the ConcoPhillips oil terminal on Teeside. “This is to show we are not alone, it’s a fight for all,” said Birchall.

“We are inspired by the Unite members’ strength and solidarity throughout the continuous strike action and they have our total support and admiration,” read a message to the strikers sent by Clayton Clive, union branch secretary for Manchester South Rail, Maritime and Transport union.

Union members delivered the message to the strikers on their picket line along with a 300 pound donation to the strike fund Nov. 15. Strikers posted a “Big Thanks” on their Facebook site.