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23Aug91 UK: CONSTRUCTION UNION UCATT AND NEW CONSTRUCTION SECTION OF EETPU FACE BATTLE FOR MEMBERS. (2 OF 2)

He has already presented ideas for a framework agreement to the BEC which he describes as meeting 'the need to restructure industrial relations on a partnership basis in order to improve the performance of the industry'.He believes that it is essential that the industry puts itself on a new footing before meeting the challenges of new Government and European legislation, and that contractors recognise that they must get new machinery in place before factors such as the Social Charter come into play.'If this way forward isn't accepted the industry will be de-unionised and lose any chance for the future,' he said.'But a significant number of employers recognise this and a significant number of people in the establishment won't allow this chance to be missed.'Ironically, many of Mr Corby's sentiments on the need for change would be echoed by Peter Lenahan, now the chair of the UCATT executive.He argues: 'We need something concrete out of the changes in the industry. Otherwise once we bottom out of the recession there will be complete anarchy with groups of workers putting employers up against the wall for high wages.'UCATT is looking to the current talks on pay restructuring as part of a process of changing the existing agreement to cope with the new challenges and of achieving change through 'negotiation, not confrontation'.But Mr Lenahan warns: 'There are two or three national contractors actively undermining this organisation. If they want to destabilise us then we'll act accordingly.'In an industry that's coming out of a recession they'll need the best industrial relations that they can achieve. Only the clear minded employers will benefit and the backward employers will suffer.'Time will tell which vision of the future will succeed. To Mr Lenahan, workers will respond to a union which is responsive to their wishes rather than those of the employers. Mr Corby and other new EETPU officials believe there is a chance to build a union which genuinely represents building workers rather than the political posturing and bureaucracy of the existing unions.The struggle between them is likely to intensify over the next few weeks with UCATT and the TGWU hoping to convince workers that the EETPU is just a 'bosses' union' and the EETPU claiming that UCATT is run by self-interested extremists.Other officials from the mainstream unions could well go over to the EETPU, and some are said to be waiting for an anti-UCATT story to appear in the press and give them an excuse. Just before the TUC conference would be normal EETPU timing.But the real battle is about membership, and much will depend on the employers. Clearly, the UCATT officials would not have gone across to the EETPU without achieving positive noises from the big contractors.The problems they have are that in the fragmented construction industry the big contractors are not necessarily the same as the big employers, and that the employers do not have a strong track record in bringing about change.One of the factors in the switch in control of UCATT was the BEC's failure to deliver on pay restructuring earlier this year. UCATT general secretary Albert Williams had already pushed through concessions on self-employment, but the BEC appeared too divided internally to come up with its side of the deal. The result was that the UCATT leadership was seen to be giving without getting anything back.Can the employers deliver this time? Do they really want change, or will they be content to allow the situation to drift?