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Unions up the ante on pay agreement

Construction unions are in talks with developers and contractors on some of the country’s largest projects in a bid to head off attempts by a group of major electrical contractors to introduce a new national pay agreement.

MJN Colston - one of the eight firms originally attempting to ditch the JIB pay terms for electrical operatives - has already decided to pull back from the new agreement in the face of protests.

A Unite official would not be drawn on which developers the unions have so far had talks with but CN understands Brookfield’s Pinnacle site in the City of London was an early focus of discussions.

T Clarke is M&E contractor for the skyscraper project and is one of the remaining seven firms proposing to introduce the new Building Services National Agreement. The others are Bailey Building Services; Balfour Beatty Engineering Services; Crown House Technologies; Gratte Bros; SES; and Spie Matthew Hall.

Unite official Harry Cowap said: “We are speaking to main contractors because these jobs will become targets if they are going to engage renegade firms who abandon agreements.

“The [electrical] companies are opportunistic and trying to take advantage of what they see as a weak and unorganised sector due to the downturn.”

The latest union move follows a series of protests around the country. One protester at a demonstration at the Laing O’Rourke/Costain Farringdon Station site told CN the dispute would escalate to the point of occupying cranes “if we have to”.

Contractors have hit back at claims the new agreement will cut pay and deskill the industry.

In a statement, they said the new agreement would introduce consistent terms and conditions for operatives who are currently employed under a number of agreements.

The new agreement, which includes a review of the mechanical and electrical pay grading structure, aims to create a more integrated workforce that is more relevant to modern techniques now being adopted on major UK construction sites, they said.


Contractors’ view

Pay grades for electrical workwill not change. Hourly pay rates for mechanical and plumbing will rise to level of electrical pay.

Leave standardised at 23 days, a one-day increase for electricians.

Sick pay, insurance, BUPA and pensions will be unchanged.

No move away from weekly pay.

Qualification-based criteria to grade all operatives, rather than just the core electrician and craftsman grades as at present.

Training designed to reflect new technologies. No change to existing apprentice contracts.

No redundancies as a direct result of implementing the new agreement.



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