Electricians strike in Three Bridges, Crawley. Photo: Site Worker Electricians strike in Three Bridges, Crawley. Photo: Site Worker

Wildcat strikes have hit the construction industry as workers demand proper employment rights. Steve Leadbeater argues this is a battle we can clearly win and one we can not afford to lose

The fight for direct employment has begun. Following the introduction of legislation to outlaw bogus self employment in the construction industry we have seen unofficial walkouts by electricians at Three Bridges Crawley, Aldermaston Berkshire and Tottenham Court Road demanding direct employment with full JIB terms and conditions.

Agency workers in construction would previously work under the construction industry scheme or CIS where a payroll company would deduct tax at 20% and we would claim a rebate for allowances at the end of the tax year. The new legislation introduced by the Tory government is intended to claim tax and NI lost through this bogus self employment.

However to avoid their liabilities, the agencies are trying to force workers to use so called umbrella companies where the employers liabilities for tax NI and pension contributions are passed on and deducted from the workers weekly wage.

The workers employed by these agencies, by the nature of their employment are generally not organised union members but given the recent victories in the Besna and Crossrail disputes it seems clear that they know how to fight back – down tools, walk out and refuse to return to work until they get the employment rights they deserve.

We need a national rank and file led campaign to rid the industry of these parasite agencies once and for all.

This is a battle that goes further than electricians and other construction workers. The use of agency working and zero hour contracts is widespread across all sectors and another tool the bosses use to divide workers and prevent union organisation.

A victory for construction workers would set a clear precedent for all workers to have recognised trades union representation and employment rights. We must organise now and take the fight to the construction bosses who try to use these illegal employment practices. This is a battle we can clearly win and one we can not afford to lose.

To keep up to date with developments follow the hashtag #fight4PAYE

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