Lewis joined the Amalgamated
He became a leading figure in the rank and file builders’ movement in the 1960s and 1970s. As the convener of all building workers’ unions at the large Barbican Development site in central
The dispute had its origins in a 1966 failure to agree with a contractor called Myton’s over the rate for a bonus. This led to a successful work-to-rule in September but a new dispute arose over interference with the scaffolders’ bonus. The following month, the matter was handled through official national procedures, which found in favour of the workers. Yet an outrageous dismissal of three steelfixers followed, causing the whole site of members of a range of building workers’ unions to walk out.
While the TGWU and AUBTW gave official supported the strike but the Amalgamated Society of Woodworkers refused to do in contentious terms, permitting the employers to lock out all workers. After 30 weeks, an agreement to restore all workers but the joint shop stewards’ committee to employment was achieved, prompting the remaining workers on strike to refuse to return unless all were enabled to. An attempt to restart work failed after a mass picket ensued, which was bolstered by support from other major building sites in central
Lewis was a founder member of the renewed Building Workers’ Charter movement, which came out of this, as well as being a leading figure in the Liaison Committee for the Defence of Trade Unions. Both bodies were influential rank and file movements that were strongly influenced by the Communist Party, of which Lewis had been long an active member. The Charter pressed for action on many issues, such as the `lump’ and the increasingly casualised nature of building worker employment.
The ASW had merged in 1970 with the Amalgamated Society of Painters and Decorators, along with the Association of Building Technicians to form the Amalgamated Society of Woodworkers and Painters. On
The merger was backed by Lewis and the rank and file movement, as was the militant stance which the new union took towards the employers in the following year. UCATT called a national strike in support of its demand for a £30 a week basic rate of pay. Lou Lewis was one of those who ensured that the strike was particularly effective in the London region, especially by mobilising flying pickets.
During the 1970s, Lewis became a full-time official in the
He eventually retired in 2003, having stepped down at the end of 2002 as the Regional Secretary.
Lou Lewis died on