A Balfour Beatty legal action highlighting “significant deficiencies” in the ballot has stopped parts of its workforce from striking.
The move was slammed by the union Unite today, who accused the construction firm of using “draconian ballot laws” after 81 per cent of 450 members opted to strike over plans by the company to withdraw from the Joint National Board agreement.
Balfour Beatty Engineering Services, along with six other construction companies, has proposed a new agreement which union members say will reduce the average wage by up to 35 per cent and introduce a new semi-skilled grade of worker.
The Balfour legal move means the strike action has been halted, with Unite saying they will announce the dates of the re-ballot with BBES and another two employers “in due course”.
A spokesman for BBES said the vote - which accounts for just over 21 per cent of the 1,650 employees affected - was flawed and included a number of deficiencies in the ballot, including non-BBES staff, non-receipt of ballot papers and the mis-categorisation of sites.
She said 85 members have contacted the firm so far to say they did not receive ballot papers. The spokesman said BBES wrote to Unite two weeks ago to point this out, but received no response from the union.
Unite national officer, Bernard McAulay said: “Our members have taken this step because of their deep concerns over the proposals by their employer to de-skill their industry.
“But rather than listen and return to the negotiating table, BBES have chosen to hide behind draconian ballot laws and challenge the democratic voice of BBES employees by quoting concerns, as to whether they have been advised of the correct name of workplaces and concerns, as to whether a handful of staff employees received ballot papers.”
He said there is now a window of opportunity for BBES to talk to the union.
The BBES spokesman said the company is pleased that Unite has re-considered its position on strike action and is keen to talk to Unite about moving forward with the Building Engineering Services National Agreement (BESNA) - and for Unite “to recognise the importance of implementing a new more modern agreement better designed to suit the needs of the industry and our customers”.
Other firms intending to leave the agreement include Bailey Building Services, T Clarke, Crown House Technologies, Gratte Brothers, SES (Shepherd) and SPIE Matthew Hall.