Electricians: We must fight tooth and nail against the attacks

The TEEU applied for a variation of the Registered Employment Agreement in order to implement the increase in the rate of pay for electricians in the building industry that was agreed after the week long strike in mid 2009. Yet again, on 19 February last, the Labour Court adjourned a decision on the matter.
The Electrical Contractors Association, which represents the larger employers, has now withdrawn its support for the increase. An initial report from the commission set up by the Tanaiste, Mary Coughlan, to enquire into the causes of the dispute has  was circulated. Its recommendations were extremely unfavourable to workers in electrical contracting. Amongst the possibilities raised is the division of electricians into categories within the industry. This would result in deskilling within the trade and a devaluation of the labour of electricians. It also raised that different rates of pay could be determined by the size of the employing companies. Such a move would accelerate the use of subcontractors, which has already had a disastrous effect on pay and conditions.
The TEEU has rejected the initial report but it is clear that some see the compliance mechanisms mentioned in the report as a positive. This parallels attitudes of other officials in the construction sector, who talk quite openly of the inevitability of acceptance of lower rates and conditions in the industry. They say that an “official compliance agreement” will ensure that these rates and conditions will be easier to enforce. The main carrot for them is that acceptance of these “official conditions” would probably include compulsory trade union membership and “deduction at source”. This would make life very easy for them, regardless of the situation for their members on the ground.
The union movement must use every sinew to fight to maintain wages and conditions. The biggest gain from the electricians strike last year was the defeat of the employers’ proposal for a 10% pay cut. We must fight tooth and nail to defeat every further proposed cut.