Monthly Archives: October 2016

Exploitation of Migrant Labour must end

Following on from the decision to leave the EU and the rhetoric coming from some quarters as a consequence of BREXIT, the Scottish  Rank and File believes that in order for our members working in the Construction Sector to have all the benefits of our collective agreements, we should unite and fight against unscrupulous employers, where they seek to undermine those agreements, with the likes of BESNA and agency employment etc., and their utterly reprehensible and criminal behaviour manifesting itself in blacklisting, but it is also imperative that we challenge, head on, the exploitation of migrant labour.

We know that there are issues, on sites up and down the country, where migrant labour are being used by employers, whether it is by companies but predominantly agencies, to undercut the terms and conditions if the indigenous workforce, however, what we as a movement, must not allow, is the tactics of divide and conquer to prevail, by dragging us down to the level of the baying mob. We must take responsibility in challenging the fever pitch finger pointing that goes on and educate our fellow workers, that it is not the individual foreign worker who is undercutting our terms and conditions, it is not the worker with a poor grasp of English that has stolen your job. We must make it clear that it is the fault of that despicable employer and that if we fail to deal with them, then it will have an adverse effect on our standards of living and earning potential for years to come.

Big business constantly moan about the lack of skilled workers to fill the vacancies in construction, a situation that they helped create. Their under investment in training and skills is responsible for the skills shortage in all trades that we’re experiencing now, but surely the answer is quite simple. These same voices from industry, and indeed from our Governments, would be better off creating more apprenticeships to provide the skilled workforce they never tire of moaning about.

However, whilst investment in apprenticeships and training is widely accepted as necessary and is supported by the Rank and File and Trade Unions, short termism is still the order of the day and it is far and away a whole lot easier for employers to utilise the services provided by agencies as a quick fix. But this method in itself is not sustainable as employers are realising that this short sighted approach to fulfilling their Labour requirements has led directly to the lack of skilled workers entering the labour market from traditional apprenticeships and by using agencies who we have always known to be parasitic bodies that only take from our industry and at the same time put absolutely nothing back into it by way of training and apprenticeships.

So, now we have the situation where employers outsource skilled labour from abroad where employers relish the hostile attitudes on British construction sites where foreign workers often feel isolated and unwelcome. How can we organise and integrate those workers into the trade union under these circumstances?

We now have the perfect storm for exploitation, not only of the migrant worker, but of indigenous British workers as they divide and conquer. We are too busy blaming and pointing fingers at our foreign colleagues, working next to us, doing the same graft, that we have taken our collective eyes of the ball and are letting the real culprits get away with undercutting our terms and conditions. Some would say, we’ve only got ourselves to blame.

So, the question remains. How do we stop this exploitation, attacks on our industry terms and conditions, and bring about that investment in skills and training so that we have a sustainable industry fit for future generations?

It’s up to every one of us to take the time to embrace our overseas comrades to ensure that they benefit from our collective agreements and the protection of being part of a trade union. That is the best way to end this abuse.

We know this is easier said than done, but unless we stop this easy source of cheap labour by bringing these fellow workers on board and uniting with them, the employers can and will continue to undermine our union national agreements and ultimately your pay packet!

There is no other viable alternative to countering this problem, we must work together, we must educate and we must fight side by side, because if we don’t, we will be beaten by our own failings. We have to realise that unity is strength and division is a weakness too easily exploited by our real enemies.

Time to stand up for equality in construction



Splits in the left and the Rank and File

With attempted coups and splits within the Left in Unite, you would be forgiven for asking, what’s that got to do with the Rank & File? Well let’s examine this question.

The United Left in Scotland is a lay member group within Unite that promotes a progressive agenda, both industrially and politically, that they believe, the union should pursue. Senior members of the Rank & File in Scotland are, in fact, also members of the United Left in Scotland. However that is not the only reason.

According to Anne Field, in the Shiraz Socialist blog, the leading light in this coup or split, is none other than Mark Lyon, former Unite convenor at Ineos, Grangemouth. Isn’t he the one that called the Rank & File rent-a-mob during the Besna dispute, I hear you ask? Well, allegedly, yes, apparently he is. He is also vice chair of Unite’s Executive Council and Chair of the International Committee.

So what is Unite’s response to attempted coups and risks of splits? Well, if you look at the trouble within the Labour Party and the vote of no confidence, by the PLP, in the leader, Jeremy Corbyn, that resulted in another leadership election, Unite’s response was one of condemnation of the PLP and quite rightly so. At Unite’s Policy Conference Len McCluskey said “…. And most of all, we are a union of principle.  We do not throw words to the wind or indulge in pointless gestures or posturing.  We reach agreements where possible and fight for our members where necessary. We don’t dwell on dogma, but we don’t confuse right with wrong. We debate difference and we cherish unity.  We stand proud in the British, Irish and international labour movement, and we do all this because of YOU, you here in this hall and thousands of our workplace representatives around the country. We have much still to do my friends; And we will do it together, while we remain united, we will remain strong”. Furthermore the Scottish Regional Secretary, in a press release, said “At this time of tremendous political and economic uncertainty, our country now looks to the Scottish Labour Party and the Parliamentary Labour Party at Westminster, to preserve our members’ jobs and working conditions, and to protect industries under increasing pressure in the uncertain climate following the decision of the UK to leave the European Union……..our members and the people of Scotland will be looking with dismay at the co-ordinated attempts to undermine the democratic mandate of our elected Leaders in Scotland and the UK”. Both very laudable indeed, but what about their response to the split within their own union in Scotland.

The splitters held a meeting in Glasgow on the 27th of August and guess who was there? According to the Shiraz Socialist blog, it was none other than the Scottish Regional Secretary and 13 other officers of the union. This group have said that they do not recognise the democratic decisions taken by United Left Scotland members at their AGM in June of this year, including the election of the new chairperson, who happens to be a prominent member of the Rank & File in Scotland. Len McCluskey apparently said, that he doesn’t support a split, but if there was a split and there was two groups claiming to be the left in Scotland, he would support a group who has Mark Lyon and the Regional Secretary as members. Eh, really? It is worth noting that when talking about the wasted three month fighting against the coup in the Labour Party, a leading member of Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow cabinet was heard saying that “If this happened in a trade union, they would nail them to the wall”. Well….. eh no!! As it happens, they are backing the splitters. Why hasn’t Mark Lyon been nailed to the wall? Where is the principle in denouncing one coup and supporting another? All within the same labour movement. The shameful betrayal of members of United Left Scotland, including the Rank & File, shows a complete disregard for the lay member democracy of the union and one that is under threat.

However, we believe that worrying developments may present the Rank & File with further concerns. Apparently, the chair of the Scottish Building, Construction and Allied Trades’ RISC who also happens to be vice chair of the NISC, turns out, it seems, to be one of the co-conspirators in this whole sorry affair, and was also at the meeting on the 27th August. So, it seems, we have someone with a prominent position in the Construction sector, actively working against the Rank & File members in Scotland and possibly the UK. He also holds a position on the Scottish Executive as a result of being elected from the Risc. This person, who purports to be a supporter of the Rank & File, has attended our Scottish and national meetings, and has now, its believed, been working to undermine our members. We, the Rank & File, are trade unionists, we campaign on industrial matters and on political matters. We believe in solidarity and we support workers in struggle, both here and overseas. We are against those who try to split us for their own ends, and we don’t like betrayal. An attack on one of our members is an attack on us all, whether from employers or elsewhere.

Coups and splits are never pleasant, as damages inflicted could be irreparable and trust, even harder to reconcile. There are moves to try and bring this coup to an end and there is an open meeting planned for the 12th November. It may be resolved, it may not. But the unforgiveable thing, is witnessing comrades turning their back on good people within the Rank & File and that betrayal will never be excused.

Unite’s opposition to the coup against Corbyn, and its support for the coup within the Left in Scotland, is so obviously contradictory as to be staring you right in the face. So, how can you be a fervent advocate of unity one minute, then, back a coup and a split, the next. The Jekyll and Hyde nature of Unite’s leadership needs to be challenged or the splitters will win….. Who’s next? Over to you Len.

Splitters of the world unite. Aye right.

The Scottish Rank & File Executive Committee