90% of Balfour Beatty sparks in south sign new contract

Aaron Morby 12 years ago
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Balfour Beatty Engineering Services has signed up the vast majority of its regional building staff to new contracts.

The firm said that now most workers at its two mainstream regional divisions have signed the controversial new Building Engineering Services National Agreement contract.

Unite union leaders responded to the claim by unveiling plans to re-ballot its union members at the firm next week for strike action.

Just three days after the deadline to sign new contracts, BBES said that 80% of its regional division staff in the north had signed and 90% in the south.

The battle with unions over new BESNA contracts is now coming to a head after months of acrimonius protests by union activists outside sites up and down the country.

The core protesters have staged demonstrations at Sellafield, Grangemouth and Ratcliffe power stations, Lindsey Oil Refinery, as well as building jobs at Blackfriars and Kings Cross station in London.

Last year the Unite union won a yes vote for strike action from 80% of its members at BBES, but was forced to call it off after the contractor claimed deficiencies in the vote.

The mass signing of contracts at Balfour’s regional divisions is a set back for Unite’s campaign.

So far take up at Balfour’s engineering construction and power divisions has not been as comprehensive, which means from a total workforce of 1,250, around 850 has signed the new agreement.

Some of the delays in these remaining businesses are being put down to a failure of unions and employers to agree terms for the NAECI wage agreement this year.

One contractor told the Enquirer: “The whole issue has become very confused in the engineering construction industry because there is bad feeling about the existing wage agreement.”

Balfour Beatty, along with six other leading M&E contractors, are switching from five long-standing industry agreements to BESNA which introduces a new pay grade below the electrician’s rate.

This has prompted unions to claim the agreement will ultimately lead to significant pay cuts for sparks. Contractors have pledged that no employee will be worse off under the new deal.

N G Bailey, BBES, T Clarke, Crown House Technologies, Gratte Brothers, Shepherd Engineering Services and SPIE Matthew Hall are working with the Heating and Ventilating Contractors’ Association to introduce the new agreement in the first week of April.

Contractors have warned that electricians who do not sign will work through their individual contract notice periods and then be deemed to have left employment.

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