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BESNA bosses seek meeting with Unite general secretary

The six remaining companies backing the controversial Building Engineering Services National Agreements are seeking discussions with Unite general secretary Len McCluskey, Construction News understands.

A source close to the negotiations said each of the six firms had now staged individual board meetings ahead of a collective meeting today to plot a response to Balfour Beatty’s shock u-turn on the introduction of new payments terms for M&E workers.

The source said:  “We are now seeking further discussions with Unite’s general secretary Len McCluskey looking for Unite to meet us by end of week for constructive dialogue, but we have had no response yet.”

It is not yet clear how the remaining firms, which include NG Bailey, Crown House, Gratte Brothers, Spie Matthew Hall, Shepherd Engineering and T Clarke, will respond to Balfour Beatty’s withdrawal.

The company is the largest of the breakaway firms and had been singled out for strike action by Unite which branded it the ringleader of the move to drop the 40 year old JIB agreements.

Unite has publicly issued calls for the remaining firms to follow suit.

Unite national construction officer Bernard McAualey is understood to have contacted each of the six firms individually immediately following Balfour Beatty’s withdrawal warning of the consequences should they fail to follow suit.

Balfour Beatty’s decision to withdraw from BESNA and seek talks with the union to reform the JIB came after a judge ruled against its attempt to block strike action voted for by 295 Unite members, with 145 against.

Balfour Beatty Engineering Services, the subsidiary which employs the majority of its workers who would have been eligible for BESNA, announced it had signed up over 95 per cent of staff to the new terms.

A statement issued by the Heating and Ventilation Contractors Association – the group which helped draft BESNA on behalf of the breakaway contractors - last week said that 88 per cent of workers across the BESNA backing firms had signed up.

Balfour Beatty’s withdrawal from BESNA follows that of MJN Colston late last year.

Unite was unavailable for comment at the time of publication.

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