Fighting cost of living crisis: Mechanical workers vote for strike action

By Matt Waine

Mechanical workers in the construction sector have voted overwhelmingly in favour of strike action in search of a cost-of-living wage increase amounting to 12.8%. Members of Unite, employed by two of the largest mechanical contractors in the country, will take strike action on 10 March seeking the return of the first hour of Travel Time. 

Workers’ rights undermined 

Members in Jones Engineering and Leo Lynch’s voted by 94% and 92% respectively for industrial action and will be followed by ballots in at least four other companies. The first day of action could see pickets placed on the massively profitable Intel site in Leixlip and the equally prestigious Pfizer site in Grange Castle, West Dublin, with other large construction projects in the pipeline, like the National Children’s Hospital.

Up until 2011, plumbers, fitters and welders employed by the main mechanical contracting companies received payments to compensate for time and costs associated with travelling to multiple sites for work. Under the guise of the recession, the bosses were able to force the removal of the first hour of travel.

Crucial dispute 

Despite over a decade of growth, construction workers have not seen their income return to pre-crisis levels. The cost of living crisis has further eroded workers’ wages and has fueled growing anger in the sector and among workers generally. While workers struggle to make ends meet, massive profits have returned to the construction sector. This is the most significant industrial dispute in the mechanical sector in a generation and represents the first serious trade union response to the cost of living crisis. 

This dispute is potentially a watershed moment. A victory for mechanical workers would be a victory for all workers. It is a warning to the employers about what lies ahead if they do not compensate for spiralling inflation. But equally, it throws down the gauntlet to other unions, who, to date, generally seem to accept the status quo, rather than organising workers to strike back, demanding pay progression. 

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