As many as 900 workers took over a power station site in Somerset after bosses disgracefully refused payment for hours lost during Storm Emma last week. But now, after reaching an agreement over the previously refused pay, it appears the workers’ tactics have won the day against their unscrupulous bosses.
The site – part of the controversial Hinkley Point C nuclear facility – was left completely inaccessible to staff after a period of heavy snow last week. Workers were told to go home on Thursday after the snow got particularly bad, but the site was closed completely over the weekend.
Subsequently staff were then reportedly told that they would be withheld weekend payment as a result of their not being able to get to work because of snow, sparking outrage amongst the workforce and leading to a sit-in.
Speaking with Somerset Live, one unnamed worker described the scene:
Hinkley Point is on a sit-in over wages. This is because we were sent home at the weekend [and] put on standby.
But we’re now being withheld weekend payment because buses were cancelled on Friday morning until Monday morning.
There are 500 men involved and counting.”
The developers at EDF attempted to downplay the protest, claiming that it was only a small group of disgruntled staff.
Not only was this claim patently false, it also missed the point. Even if it were just a small group of workers protesting, it would have in no way diminished the cynicism of the Hinkley management in denying payment.
A sign of things to come?
Although the sit-in at Hinkley Point C was an isolated example, British workers have a proud history of direct action in the workplace, from picketing and blockades, all the way up to full blown occupations.
The most famous case was seen in the massive industrial disputes which shook the mining industry in the 1970s and 1980s. It was during this period that British workers pioneered the use of flying pickets – which aimed to stop the transport of coal to power stations in order to maintain the effectiveness of their strikes. More recently, in 2009 Visteon/Ford workers in Enfield, Basildon, and Belfast led coordinated occupations of their factories against job cuts.
And given the ongoing and merciless cuts to living standards we have seen since the 2008 financial crisis, such tactics are likely to be picked up again and again.
Since the Conservatives first came to power in 2010, more than 1 million public sector jobs have been lost; the number of homeless children has risen by 60%; in-work poverty now effects one in eight workers; funding for local government (councils) has been cut by 40%, and will be further decimated in coming years; the number of people dependent on food banks is fast-approaching one million; disability benefits have been stripped to the bone; and benefit sanctions have led to a spike in the number of suicides.
Despite all this, government debt has actually increased by over £500 billion since 2010.
Clearly the billionaire class are incapable of running the economy, so the task will be left to workers instead.
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