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Balfour Beatty workers vote for strike action

More than 80 per cent of Unite members working for Balfour Beatty Engineering Services have voted in favour of strike action over plans by the company to withdraw from the Joint National Board agreement.

The ballot, which closed today, saw 81 per cent of almost 450 workers vote for strike action.

It follows the announcement in May from Balfour Beatty Engineering Services, along with six other construction companies, to Unite that it intended to withdraw from the national agreement. Instead a new agreement has been proposed which union members say will reduce the average wage by up to 35 per cent and introduce a new semi-skilled grade of worker.

Balfour Beatty told Construction News at the time of the ballot being announced that no employees will have their wages cut.

Unite will announce dates for the strike action in due course. It said it had written to the seven companies involved in the the dispute asking for talks and has suggested involving Acas.

Unite had previously said that some of the contractors involved had issued threats to dismiss workers who refused to sign new contracts by 7 December, though it has asked Balfour Beatty to withdraw this threat for workers who refuse to sign by 7 January 2012. 

Unite national officer, Bernard McAulay, said: “This is a resounding result and shows our members have not been conned and therefore Balfour Beatty Engineering Services need to recognise they do not have the support of their employees.

“Unite therefore calls on Balfour Beatty to immediately engage in discussion with the union to find a sensible solution to this dispute.The company should start by withdrawing its threat of dismissal to those who refuse to sign new and inferior contracts.”

The 7 contracting companies intending to leave the JIB are:

  • Bailey Building Services
  • Balfour Beatty
  • T Clarke
  • Crown House Technologies
  • Gratte Brothers
  • SES
  • SPIE Matthew Hall

The companies have been working with the Heating and Ventilating Contractors Association to draw up their own agreements The HVCA said today it was “disappointed” by the ballot’s result. Chief executive Blane Judd said:

“Unite’s strike mandate was achieved through the use of misleading and unjustified scare tactics,”

“We hope that Balfour Beatty’s workers will communicate with their employer to get the facts about the proposed Building Engineering Services National Agreement before deciding to strike. However, it’s important to remember that the other six companies supporting the BESNA are not affected by this action and are proceeding with their employee consultations.

“We remain confident that the new agreement is the best way to secure jobs, develop skills and compete effectively against foreign firms.”

Balfour Beatty Engineering Services issued a statement saying it was “disappointed that a small percentage of employees have voted in favour of strike action,” citing the total affected by the BESNA to be just 21 per cent.

“We have strong grounds to believe that Unite’s strike ballot procedures were flawed and BBES plan to request the court to take out an injunction in the next few days.

BBES is working alongside the HVCA and 6 other contractors to modernise our industry and become more competitive in order to secure jobs and create opportunities. We urge Unite to re-consider its call for strike action at a time when UK businesses are trying to secure work and employment.”

 

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