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Balfour Beatty sparks win right to strike

Balfour Beatty’s attempt to prevent an electricians’ strike against the new Besna deal has failed.

Unite, the union, balloted its members at the beginning of February, getting 66 per cent in favour of strike action.

A previous ballot had been blocked in the High Court by BBES. But a judge this morning  ruled that this strike could go ahead.

In a written judgement, Mr Justic Eady said: “In the light of my conclusions, I must refuse the relief sought.

A Unite spokesman confirmed the union had been successful.

“We are digesting the ruling and allowing time for Balfour Beatty to digest it as well.”

The spokesman was unable to confirm when the strike would go ahead.

Balfour Beatty Engineering Services had tried to halt the prospect of strike action by challenging the ballot on the grounds that as many as 100 eligible voters, from a total pool of around 500 may not have been given the opportunity to vote.

In his ruling Mr Justice Eady said: “It seems to me that, so far as reasonably practical, every person entitled to vote had a voting paper sent to him/her and also was afforded a convenient opportunity to vote by post.”

He added: “Indeed, I think it fair to say that Unite went to considerable lengths to ensure democratic legitimacy which might be thought to exceed what would ordinarily be expected.

“I am not persuaded that Unite is threatening or intending to do anything that would be unlawful. There would be no ground, therefore, on which to grant an injunction.”

Commenting, Len McCluskey, general secretary for Unite, said: “This is a historic ruling that supports our members’ legitimate right to strike. All too often employers are trying to use the courts to undermine the democratic will of their workforces, when they should be putting their energies into resolving disputes. We trust that employers will now recognise that disputes aren’t settled in the court room but around the negotiating table.”

However, Edward Benson, the head of employment law at Browne Jacobson said he was surprised tha teh judge had disallowed the injunction.

“It seems strange that as many as 100 members may not have been able to vote. Unite obviously went to great lengths to find them. But the union has been given great leeway because it keeps a baqd database.”

Meanwhile the Electrical Contractors’ Association has called for all parties affected by plans to introduce Besna to return to the table and develop a collaborative solutio following lobbying by electrical workers at its annual dinner.

ECA Group chief executive Steve Bratt said: “It is clear that the proposed BESNA agreement put forward by HVCA and the seven contractors concerned has caused a lot of anxiety and confusion.

“The ECA believes that the only acceptable agreement is one that is achieved through collaboration rather than in isolation. We recognise there is a need for change, which is why the ECA and the rest of our colleagues in the sector have set up an Industry Modernisation Forum and are working together to achieve a solution.”

“The Union and Industry Modernisation Forum have agreed, in principle, ‘Proposals for Change’ and have urged the HVCA and the seven contractors concerned to come back to the table and work with colleagues in the Forum  to effect safe and responsible change.

“We agree that collaboration is the only way forward to safeguard our industry, as well as good industrial relations, and we are committed to finding a solution to this issue. The door is open and in the interest of all parties, we hope they choose to work with us to deliver collaborative change which is acceptable to all and not just a few.”

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