"Too many belts"

"Too many belts"

Scottish Electrical Workers Branch Blog number 1 

Written by Thomas McCabe Vice chair of SEWB  1/11/2018 

Where is our industry going and can we, as sparks, have any influence on it?  

Not a huge question, and the first part of it can be answered easy enough but what about the second part? This is where real division is starting to crop up in our industry.  

We’ll get the first part of the question out the way, the industry is going down the tubes. In one way or another I think 99.9% of sparks agree in some way with that statement.  

Next the division. So, can we fight against our employers if we are divided? Yes, I'd say so. But it would be easier and better if we were a united front. What splits us then? Difference of opinion plays a big part and understanding the problems we face probably even more.  

We all know that agencies, even if they did have a part to play in finding labour for projects, are taking money out of our pockets and in making us ‘self employed’ removing any rights we have as workers. And I think personally that this is the even bigger crime. You go to work and are treated appallingly, the level of the “don’t like it, fuck off” attitude shown by gaffers on jobs is disgusting on some sites. If you speak up about welfare or lack of, you’re seen as a trouble maker. This doesn’t bode well for us in the future. That’s just one small example and I'm sure we can all speak of several occasions when we’ve seen or been victim to over exuberant black hats.  

So, can we redress this imbalance? Would a union backed labour pool, with companies taking on through it, either books in or subby direct help?  It’s a question that should be discussed.  

Possibly the biggest divider of opinion is the use of unskilled labour on jobs to undertake electricians work.  Let’s get it out of the way here and now. The SEWB doesn’t stand for or want unskilled workers to be given any grade of status by the bodies that do award any status given to a worker.  The grading is already in place, set by the SJIB.  This does not mean that unskilled (I'm calling the position labourer from here) can’t join the union, I would like all labourers working in the electrical industry to be able to gain union representation. It may even empower labourers to stop under taking works they know should be done by a spark but at present feel compelled to do so or their job is at threat.  I also think we should remember that labourers being forced to do our work are being abused even more than us. They do it for less money and often no realisation that their work can land them in jail if a member of the public was to be harmed at a later date.  If labourers were aware of this it might make one or two think about what they’re getting into if told to do a certain job.  As I’m sure you all know the EWB and the SEWB are different unions under the IWGB banner. This being said I think it would be madness not to use each other for support and advice, I know I’ve called Sam for advice already. There are certainly enough of the same concerns between London and Scotland that means we will be fighting the same wars so to speak. And both being new unions being run by sparks it really does make sense to push the same agendas and give each other advice where we can. That I think should be an objective of all sparks, to advise each other, and the way I see these unions really growing. I’m new to this position and I know I'm willing to listen to anyone, we can all have ideas and who knows who or when someone will come up with an innovation to help us all, so we must all listen to each other and we will find a way to clean up this trade, I’m sure of it. 

The ramblings of a man that had too many belts!!!  

Tam McCabe 



On a side note, for any readers that haven’t yet found their way to these books I recommend them highly. 

1. The ragged trousered philanthropists.  Robert Tressell 

2. The Establishment and how they get away with it. Owen Jones 

3. Blacklisted. Phil Chamberlain and Dave Smith (who’s a spark) 

4. The Labour spy racket. Leo Huberman