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The Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB) is today launching the Electrical Workers Branch, which will campaign for the rights of London’s self-employed electricians.
While electricians with employee status and on PAYE have traditionally been unionised, the 85,000 that work on a self-employed basis throughout the UK have largely gone unrepresented. Consequently the sector is rife with abuse, with self-employed electricians being forced to work through umbrella companies, often in shifts that can run for up to 12 hours a day.
The branch will campaign to improve pay and working conditions of self-employed electricians, tackling issues such as umbrella companies, overwork and pay-rates. But more generally, it will fight back against the de-professionalisation and de-skilling of the sector, including the introduction of 16-week training courses, which result in a rise in under-qualified workers doing electrical work.
Self-employed electricians can be found on most sites that require electricians — from major infrastructure projects, such as Crossrail, to football stadiums.
The branch will initially welcome members from Greater London, with a view to opening membership to the whole of the UK in future. An inaugural open meeting will be held on 26 July at 6:30pm to discuss strategy, and elect officials and representatives.
Electrician and founding member of the IWGB Electrical Workers Branch Sam McDouall said: “We wanted a union that would fight for the interests of self-employed electricians and wasn’t riddled with bureaucracy, so we turned to the IWGB. We need to fight back against the abuse and de-skilling which is becoming increasingly common in our sector, and through the IWGB we will do just that.”
IWGB General Secretary Dr Jason Moyer-Lee said: “Like the Uber drivers and bicycle couriers that came before them, it is no surprise that self-employed electricians decided to organise through the IWGB. The multiple layers of outsourcing, subcontracting, agencies, umbrella companies and bogus classification as independent contractors necessarily result in the unfair treatment and exploitation of these workers. The IWGB is about to shine a massive spotlight on this nasty industry and start whipping it into shape.”
The Electrical Workers Branch will be the eighth branch of the IWGB. The other branches are the Cleaners and Facilities Branch, University of London Branch, Foster Care Workers Branch (England, Wales and Northern Ireland), Foster Care Workers Branch (Scotland), United Private Hire Drivers, Couriers and Logistics Branch, and Security Officers and Receptionists Branch.
The IWGB is the leading union for migrant workers and workers in the so-called “gig-economy”, having defeated Uber, Addison Lee, CitySprint and several other companies at tribunals. It has also won improved terms and conditions for outsourced workers at several sites and secured the first ever collective bargaining agreement with a gig-economy employer.