The building services industry will suffer “a great deal of unrest” unless plans to standardise pay and conditions across the sector are revisited, representatives have warned.
The Electrical Contractors Association has teamed up with three other bodies to oppose the proposals from the Heating and Ventilating Contractors’ Association.
The HVCA wants the Building Engineering Services National Agreement in place by 2012 to standardise pay and conditions across the sector.
But the coalition of bodies said in a statement: “HVCA’s desire to railroad changes in the industrial relations environment through the proposed Building Engineering Services agreement without union backing is short-sighted and a recipe for disaster.
It added: “In terms of industrial relations, the HVCA’s actions put the industry firmly on track for a great deal of instability and unrest, not to mention an erosion of market confidence in an economic climate where the industry should be working together rather than breaking apart and undermining its own position.”
The ECA was joined by the Scottish & Northern Ireland Plumbing Employers’ Federation, the Association of Plumbing and Heating Contractors and Scottish electrical contractors’ body Select.
Industry relations have been strained since the proposed HVCA/ECA merger broke down last year.
The problem was compounded when the eight largest M&E firms walked away from negotiations over pay agreements with the Joint Industry Board – controlled by the ECA and union Unite – and turned to the HVCA to draw up the proposed agreement.
A spokesman for the HVCA said it was “disappointed” by the comments from the four bodies.
“We have worked, initially in partnership with other trade associations, for nearly five years to create an integrated working agreement for multi-disciplined employers in the sector to enable them to adapt to the modern methods of construction and meet their clients’ needs.
“The inability to deliver this agreement collectively, along with the current challenging economic situation, are the major factors behind the new agreement’s introduction.
“We hope that the BESNA can be introduced with the union’s backing. Since Unite walked away from discussions in May, our door has remained open for them to resume talks.”
The HVCA also today set out its responses to earlier criticism from the JIB over the BESNA.