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Sign up to BESNA, Unite tells sparks

Trade union Unite is advising its members to sign up to the controversial Building Engineering Services National Agreement despite supporting months of protests, Construction News has learned.

Trade union Unite is advising its members to sign up to the Building Engineering Services National Agreement despite leading months of protests, Construction News has learned.

The union wrote to members last week to suggest they sign up to the new terms while pledging to fight on against the seven major contractors at the centre of the dispute.

Unite national officer Bernard McAulay has since told CN the union is acting on legal advice because the employers “refused to withdraw the threat of dismissal” for workers not signing.

The Heating and Ventilation Contractors Association, which helped the seven firms draft the agreement, said on Monday that over 70 per cent of eligible workers had now signed up to the new terms.

Balfour Beatty Engineering Services, the largest of the seven firms and currently the subject of a strike ballot by Unite, has now signed up 92.7 per cent of employees in its building services division.

But Mr McAulay hit back at the firms saying they were “congratulating themselves” prematurely.

If the ballot is successful, a strike is planned for 9 February.

He said:  “This in no-way indicates acceptance, it just shows their bullying tactics have had the effect they wanted. But if you look at our last ballot with BBES, 80 per cent of Unite members voted for strike action - these are the same workers who have signed up.  

Unite is understood to be considering referring the seven contractors - Balfour Beatty Engineering Services, Crown House, Spie Matthew Hall, T Clarke, Gratte Brothers, Shepherd Engineering Services and NG Bailey - to the Office of Fair Trading for acting like a “cartel”.

The union has drafted national officer Kevin Coyne to assist Mr McAuley in the campaign.

Mr Coyne is due to meet leaders of the rank and file movement at Unite’s headquarters tomorrow.

It continues to support the ongoing site protests being led by rank and file which this week are targeting NG Bailey.

Workers this morning targeted projects the company is currently working on, including London’s Kings Cross, as well as sites in Manchester and Edinburgh.



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