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Thread: Where we f****d up

  1. #1
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    Default Where we f****d up

    started in the Scaffolding game back in the mid seventies and so have been around for quite some time. After working for many companies up until 1983, I got a start on the Das Island shutdown that year and on returning used the money that I earned to start my own small Scaffolding company which I ran until 1996, when I sold up. I moved to France for a year before starting working overseas full time, not always in Scaffolding, but always in oil and gas construction and in close contact with the various scaffolding contractors that have been employed on these worldwide projects.

    Over these latter years, say from the late nineties onwards, I have observed all sorts of mistreatment and exploitation of Scaffolders (and others), on sites in many different countries, particularly in the Middle and Far East and because of the way these countries work, this exploitation is almost encouraged by the local authorities and certainly a blind eye is turned towards it in most cases.

    Then, more recently, I have been based on a number of projects in Europe and in particular in Scandinavian or Baltic countries and it has been interesting to see how first world standards of employment differ from third world ones. This of course is only to be expected I guess, given our European, generally much stricter employment and safety laws and so nothing too much of interest to speak about on that I suppose...….until I arrived on a project in Denmark.

    Nothing too much out of the ordinary to start, German main contractor (who I work for), doing a project for a Danish subsidy of ours. We struggled to get any Danish company to bid for the civils work, but eventually one did and they were awarded it. We had the same problems getting anyone interested in bidding for the mechanical and E&I work here and so those contracts went to German companies that we have worked with before.

    The mechanical sub contractor then gave the scaffolding contract to a German company that they had used before, but only in Germany.

    Job started and we had frequent visits from local government officials to see that all on site were registered with the local tax authorities and such and we had no problems with that. Then one day a guy arrived and announced that he was from a union and that he needed to check to see that working conditions were safe on site for everyone. This we allowed him to do, but noticed that he was particularly interested in finding the Scaffolders to check on them, which he eventually did and then left.

    Two weeks later he returned with a colleague, a rather large and intimidating colleague. I took them to my office and questioned them about why exactly they were here. They told me that they were the local representatives of a construction union and that some of their members were already working here for the Danish civils contractor, however they were here on this occasion to speak to the Scaffolders on site. I asked why particularly the Scaffolders and they said that the two of them were ex-Scaffolders and the union was very strong in their support for Scaffolders, making sure that they were paid the same rates as locals, accommodation was ok, plenty of time off, etc, etc,. When I explained that I was in fact a qualified Scaffolder still holding an Advanced Card, they were very keen to talk and said that as there is no minimum wage for anyone in Denmark, unions generally were strong and that their construction based one was very strong. They told me that the average wage for a Scaffolder in most of Denmark was between 18-22 Euros and hour, but that as they were so strong in this area, the minimum was 30 Euros. Anyway, they had their site visit, went to have a meeting with the German Scaffolding Site Manager and left.

    I heard no more until last night.

    I then had a call from my SM to say that on Monday, the Scaffolding SM had been summoned to a meeting in the local town with representatives of the union. This he had attended alone, but when he walked into the union office, he was faced by the main guy from the site visit, but that there were four others standing in the room, all around 2mts in height and upwards of 18 stone. He got the opinion that they were there to 'impress' !

    He was informed that as a foreign contractor in Denmark, he had to observe certain rules. They slipped a paper across the table with a figure in Euros (the amount of which he will not discuss with anyone), and told him that this 'contribution' to the union was required to allow his company to continue working here and that he would obviously want a storage yard in the area and that, as it so happened, they had one available. He stores all his gear in the site storage area and so this is not needed, but we will have to see how persuasive they become as to whether he takes up the 'kind offer', or not.

    Since the meeting, he is convinced that he is being followed and at the meeting the union guys already knew where he and his Scaffs were living. Mafia style stuff it seems !

    So why my headline to this story ?

    Well, I remember very well in the late 70's when union reps were travelling around general construction sites in South Wales, trying to get Scaffs to sign up. Anyone who showed the slightest interest was warned in no uncertain terms by the company management, if they joined, they were out. No one I ever worked with on these sites ever joined to my knowledge.

    Engineering based jobs - power stations, refineries, etc, were different, most if not all were members of the AUEW, if I remember correctly and we all had some protection and reasonably decent wages, but the guys on civils sites and town work never appeared interested.

    That is, in my opinion, where we as a group, went wrong. If everyone had stuck together at that time, or in fact before or since, it would have made a vast difference to Scaffolders wages and general standing in the construction world, including bringing more UK guys into the trade which might have gone some way to battling the influx of foreigners in later years. I do not condone the mafia like behaviour of the Danish union here, but some holding of power over our destiny would have been nice.

    If you want to see how Danish workers deal with underpaid Eastern Europeans being used to erect sub-standard scaffold on the cheap, read and watch the link below !

    http://www.demvolkedienen.org/index....abor-struggles

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    meercat (2 Days Ago), stonedrose1 (2 Days Ago)

  3. #2
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    I lost interest at ‘started’.

  4. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roger Nutkins View Post
    I lost interest at ‘started’.
    The 'lost interest' comment is exactly why scaffolders do not have a union today that represents ALL of them, ALL of the time.
    Shame, as a group we could have been so strong, just like the £F union here.
    Some earlier background info is on this link https://www.scaffoldersforum.com/sho...ing-in-Denmark

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    One of the most thought provoking contributions I’ve seen on the forum in a many’s a year Johnny, and for that alone, you are to be commended.

  7. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by jonnyoneye View Post
    The 'lost interest' comment is exactly why scaffolders do not have a union today that represents ALL of them, ALL of the time.
    Shame, as a group we could have been so strong, just like the £F union here.
    Some earlier background info is on this link https://www.scaffoldersforum.com/sho...ing-in-Denmark
    Yeah dream on with your silly little Union. Same unions that promote cheap Eastern European labour. Muppet.

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