Balfour is being targeted by the union who believe the contractor is the driving force behind eight major M&E firms looking to withdraw from the JIB pay and conditions agreement.
The latest round of site protests by rank-and-file electricians over the pull-out is due tomorrow at Balfour’s Blackfriars Station job in London.
Unite national officer, Bernard McAulay said: “We believe Balfour Beatty is the main aggressor among a group of companies trying to bully their workers into signing away their livelihoods so Unite is therefore balloting them first.
“We have warned them repeatedly that their greed will bring mayhem to an industry desperately trying to steer a path through the recession, but they refuse to listen.
“Unite has been left with no choice than to prepare for an industrial action ballot with Balfour Beatty, the ring-leader of these break-away firms.
The unanimous decision to proceed with a strike ballot was taken at a meeting of Unite shop stewards from the electrical and mechanical sector today.
The move will stun employers who want the union to stop its “negative and scaremongering” tactics and restart negotiations on their proposed new deal known as BESNA.
Blane Judd of employer trade body the Heating and Ventilating Contractors Association said: “The employers are looking to the future by seeking to modernise an old-style agreement and create something more suitable for the current construction sector.
“This recession has changed the way the sector will operate in the future and we must respond to secure jobs and develop skills to sustain employment far into the future.
“The employers, currently discussing the BESNA with their staff, are offering better wages and benefits at a time when many others are cutting back on employment.”
A Balfour statement said: “Balfour Beatty Engineering Services remain committed to the HVCA and the introduction of the Building Engineering Services National Agreement (BESNA).
“The UK construction industry is under pressure to increase efficiency, to improve productivity and to minimise costs.
“We are in the process of consulting with our workforce on the proposed introduction of the BESNA, this includes providing the opportunity for our employees to ask questions to fully understand the detail and benefits of a single agreement for BBES and the industry as a whole.
“We believe that by implementing the new agreement we will create a more modern structure, better able to respond to the market place and to safeguard employment, without eroding the terms and conditions of our employees.
“No employee will have their wages cut, electricians will earn the same rate under the BESNA and mechanical and plumbing operatives will see an increase in their hourly rate to create a level playing field.”