Rebel M&E firms act to quash wage reform unrest

Aaron Morby 11 years ago
Share

Britain’s big eight building services contractors will this week act to defuse worker unrest over moves to overhaul the industry’s long-standing wage agreement.

The breakaway contractors are writing individually to the 6,000 strong workforce explaining why they are pulling out of the industry’s JIB pay and conditions agreement and establishing a new grading structure for the industry.

Firms will also alert the Government, major clients and contractors to plans to switch to a new industry agreement from next March.

The action comes as angry electricians plan more protests at key sites against the controversial element of the proposals to introduce a new installer grade below a fully qualified electrician pay rate.

The big employers – Bailey Building Services, Balfour Beatty Engineering Services, T. Clarke, Crown House Technologies, Gratte Brothers., MJN Colston, SES and SPIE Matthew Hall – argue their a new agreement is needed to reflect modern working practices.

A spokesman for the eight employers told the Enquirer: “There has been a lot of misleading information bandied around about the proposals. Claims that rates will be cut by 35% are nonsense.

“We will not be regrading anybody or changing anyone’s pay rates on site. The new installer grade will only be applied to people joining the industry.”

He added: “When the people see our proposals for themselves, we are very confident they will understand and support the changes.”

Individual copies of the draft Building Engineering Services National Agreement -BESNA – are to be sent to every worker affected by the new grading structure plan.

Contractors have been trying for four years to revamp archaic pay practices which have been overtaken by technology and working practices.

The distinction between M&E contractors has blurred in recent years with contractors offering single point integrated skills as building services contractors. But the industry has remained locked into two separate wage agreements.

Growth in prefabricated electrical components has meant much work on site requires straight forward assembly skills.

But the existing JIB deal means work still has to be carried out by a fully qualified electrician paid an hourly rate of more than £16.

The contractors’ spokesman said: “There really is no alternative. Contractors need greater flexibility to build a workforce with the appropriate skills and appropriate numbers.

“They have to bring in this reform if they are to survive in the modern building environment.

“That is why they have no choice but to go directly to their staff.”

He added: “Nobody wants to be forced into going down the labour agency or subcontractor path to do these jobs. It isn’t about de-skilling, its about properly manning projects from within, rather than with subcontractors.”

Union leaders at Unite claim the new grade will undermine skilled electricians and lead to de-skilling.

More than 500 rank-and-file sparks voted to take part in unofficial action during a stormy meeting in London two weeks ago.

Since then protests have been staged at N G Bailey sites and Balfour Beatty’s high-profile Blackfriars station project in London.

Discussion between the employers and Unite ended without agreement last week.

The employers have asked the unions to details their objects to the proposals. “Employers want to discuss and negotiate with trades unions, but we are not making any progress,” said the contractors spokesman.

    New BESNA working grades

    At the centre of the Agreement is a new grading structure for modern integrated building
    engineering services teams.

    This is designed to give more flexibility for employers and clear progression paths enabling suitably qualified workers to progress through the grades.

    All grades under the existing separate agreements will be assimilated into the new grade structure. Existing workers will be allocated to the appropriate new grade.

    For example an approved electrician will become an advanced BES craftsman – with existing rates of pay and benefits unchanged.

    Going forward, grading will be undertaken by the employer with a worker right of appeal through the contractor’s in-house grievance procedure.

    If the matter is not resolved it can then be referred to what is called the Joint Building Services Engineering Forum. This will include representatives of the employers and Unite union, if it signs up to the agreement.

Latest news

Manchester arts centre running £100m over original budget

Extra cash call as cost inflation pushes The Factory project cost to £211mm
5 hours ago

Balfour targets next generation floating wind farms

Balfour teams up with Aker to build concrete gravity base floating wind turbines
6 hours ago

RSK buys Scottish M&E specialist WGM Engineering

£45m turnover Glasgow contractor employs 365 mechanical, electrical, and civil engineering staff
16 hours ago

Caddick acquires assets from failed facade specialist

Deal to save Speedpanel operation from Speedclad ensures continuity on projects
17 hours ago

Cladding and roofing specialist falls £9m into red

Lindner Prater runs into loss after remedial works needed on a major job
22 hours ago

Ellmer propels growth at Byrne Group

Concrete specialist Byrne impacted by project start delays
23 hours ago

Kobelco suspends plant sales over engine scandal

Manufacturer stops selling some excavators and crawler cranes over emissions fear
23 hours ago

Watkin Jones sounds profit warning

Higher borrowing costs for buyers starting to hit sale prices and margins
22 hours ago

First nuclear fusion plant to be built in Nottinghamshire

£2bn-plus fusion energy plant to be built at West Burton coal power station site.
1 day ago

Peel sets up suburban build-to-rent developer

New Letta arm aims to build 1,000 private rental homes in the North West
22 hours ago

Wates Pre-Construction Director joins rival Real

Matt Smith joins ambitious contractor and developer
2 days ago

L&G modular homes amassed loss deepens to £174m

Modular arm suffers sixth successive loss but books first revenue of £12m
2 days ago

Chancellor does U-turn on top rate tax cut

Plan to abolish 45p top rate a "distraction" from Growth Plan
2 days ago

O’Connor Utilities buys fibre optic installer

Leeds-based telecoms contractor InICT employs over 110 staff
2 days ago

Thompsons claims UK biggest blow down at Redcar

100,000t steelmaking plant demolished using 1.6 tonnes of explosive
2 days ago

Costain and Mott MacDonald win £60m Stonehenge deal

New team in to oversee construction once scheme gets planning green light
2 days ago

Brickability buys ET Clay Products for £11.6m

Construction materials distributor acquires brick supply specialist
2 days ago

BAM accelerates net zero target to 2026

UK operations set more ambitious carbon target than Royal BAM Group
2 days ago

Seven metre roof fall from “makeshift” access system

Contractor fined £80,000 after employee fell through fragile roof
2 days ago

Self-employed labour rates hit record high

Average weekly pay tops £1,000 in London, the South East and East of England.
5 days ago

Network Rail chief takes finance reins at Skanska

Meliha Duymaz is new Chief Financial Officer
5 days ago

Construction Manager of the Year crowned

Kier's Joe O’Connell lands top prize. Full list of winners
6 days ago

Hochtief starts pulling down Welsh pylons

Construction starts on National Grid project
5 days ago

Kier wins London life sciences job

Contractor lands innovative landmark lab development at ARC West London
5 days ago

Social housing bidding opens for £1.5bn energy retrofit cash

First upgrades of social housing stock could start from early next year
6 days ago

Construction arm propels Mace to record profit

Revenue expected to top £2bn this year despite project delays
7 days ago

Fire destroys conveyor belt at Silvertown Tunnel site

Forty firefighters battle blaze at huge London site
6 days ago

Plan for £58m Bristol pharma R&D facility approved

Willmott Dixon in line to build the R&D facility at Bristol & Bath Science Park
6 days ago

Bond Street Elizabeth line station to open next month

Final station on delayed line will welcome passengers in October
6 days ago

Sisk fixes price on £227m Quintain flats job

Quintain signs single-largest contract so far at Wembley Park
7 days ago

Contractor services