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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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    I lost interest at ‘started’.

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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 3F union here.
    Some earlier background info is on this link https://www.scaffoldersforum.com/sho...ing-in-Denmark
    Last edited by jonnyoneye; 3 Days Ago at 11:28 AM. Reason: mis spelling

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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.

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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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    Quote Originally Posted by Roger Nutkins View Post
    Yeah dream on with your silly little Union. Same unions that promote cheap Eastern European labour. Muppet.
    'Same unions that promote cheap Eastern European labour'.
    I would be interested to hear what concrete evidence you have for that statement Mr Nutkins.

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    Thanks for your positive comment Stonedrose1.
    I just think that we missed a golden opportunity to be a strong group of workers in the general construction and engineering workforce back in the 70's and 80's and probably before my start in the industry as well. If we had acted then and been united in our approach, we could have protected much of our rights as time progressed, similar to the group strength that I am witnessing here in Denmark.
    I don't agree with some of their methods of persuasion, but the united strength is impressive.
    Sadly with many people like our other contributor to this post in the trade,we were and are weak and ununified and will continue to be exploited by employers and those money sucking leeches, the agents, who pull all the strings, including importing cheap and underqualified foreign labour.

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    Here's a starter, you pompous clown - https://unitetheunion.org/media/1364...mmigration.pdf

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    Pompous clown !

    Well, I've been called a few things in my life, but a Pompous clown is a new one

    The link that you provided does indeed make interesting reading and this is what I asked for and you were kind enough to provide some evidence in support of your original comment.

    Unfortunately in cannot seen any date of publication of the document, but as some of the figures in it are stated as up to and including 2019, I would guess that it is one that was produced by the Unite Union to support Labour in their election battle with the Tories in the recent General Election and some of the language used it would support that idea I would think.

    Anyway, the result of that General Election I believe did not support the unions view that immigration was good for the country. Some immigration is of course positive and we should encourage talented people from everywhere to expand our business expertise, but also in this Unite document it states that - Wages are not depressed because migrants arrived in the UK. It is caused by:
    1. Failure to enforce minimum wages
    2. The weakening of the trade unions

    These are the two points that I tried to make in my original post, but if you could not be bothered to read beyond 'Started......', then you would not have known that.

    If we as a group had stuck together as these guys in Denmark have (and things are hotting up considerably here by the way !), then the Scaffolders in Britain would not have any issues with low pay and we would have a strong union to represent us and people coming from outside the country would have to have full and proper training - all of them, every single one, rather than the influx that we had some years ago of East Europeans supposedly doing two week courses in Holland and arriving on our shores as fully qualified Scaffs.

    Unfortunately, the weak unions that we are blessed with and in the Scaffolders case, no dedicated union, have allowed the situation to develop that we now find ourselves moaning about. As for the Unite Union officially promoting immigration, I think that you will find that this was all to do with supporting the Labour view in a General Election and was not the view of much of it's members, which is why now we have a Tory government with a big majority.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jonnyoneye View Post
    Pompous clown !

    Well, I've been called a few things in my life, but a Pompous clown is a new one

    The link that you provided does indeed make interesting reading and this is what I asked for and you were kind enough to provide some evidence in support of your original comment.

    Unfortunately in cannot seen any date of publication of the document, but as some of the figures in it are stated as up to and including 2019, I would guess that it is one that was produced by the Unite Union to support Labour in their election battle with the Tories in the recent General Election and some of the language used it would support that idea I would think.

    Anyway, the result of that General Election I believe did not support the unions view that immigration was good for the country. Some immigration is of course positive and we should encourage talented people from everywhere to expand our business expertise, but also in this Unite document it states that - Wages are not depressed because migrants arrived in the UK. It is caused by:
    1. Failure to enforce minimum wages
    2. The weakening of the trade unions

    These are the two points that I tried to make in my original post, but if you could not be bothered to read beyond 'Started......', then you would not have known that.

    If we as a group had stuck together as these guys in Denmark have (and things are hotting up considerably here by the way !), then the Scaffolders in Britain would not have any issues with low pay and we would have a strong union to represent us and people coming from outside the country would have to have full and proper training - all of them, every single one, rather than the influx that we had some years ago of East Europeans supposedly doing two week courses in Holland and arriving on our shores as fully qualified Scaffs.

    Unfortunately, the weak unions that we are blessed with and in the Scaffolders case, no dedicated union, have allowed the situation to develop that we now find ourselves moaning about. As for the Unite Union officially promoting immigration, I think that you will find that this was all to do with supporting the Labour view in a General Election and was not the view of much of it's members, which is why now we have a Tory government with a big majority.
    I think you lost literally any credibility you were left with, after that load of inane drivel. You'd make a good labour politician!

    Here's another snippet for you: https://unitetheunion.org/media/2186...inter-2019.pdf

    Scroll to P5 - "Migrant advice line launched".

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