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Unions move to ballot for strike action over sparks protest

Hundreds gather at protests across the country

Construction trade unions are planning a major recruitment drive to help raise support for strike action against the eight electrical contractors intending to leave the current pay agreement.

Speaking at the latest protest at Farringdon Station in London this morning, Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail told Construction News she had met union chief Len McCluskey to discuss holding a ballot.

“We have got to get a move on because the trigger will be pulled at the beginning of December.

“We are meeting with workers at sites up and down the country and our absolute objective is to recruit members to improve density.

“We are determined to hold a ballot as soon as possible.”

The eight contractors at the heart of the dispute are Bailey Building Services, Balfour BeattyEngineering Services, Tommy Clarke, Crown House Technologies, Gratte Brothers, MJN Colston, SES and Spie Matthew Hall.

Union officials claimed Balfour Beatty is threatening 890 employees with redundancy if they refused to sign a new pay agreement which would see their wages cut dramatically.

The employers are proposing a new agreement which, according to union members, will involve reducing the average wage by up to 35 per cent and introducing a new grade of worker.

The new grade will be a semi-skilled worker who will install all of the containment and wiring - the work which currently takes up 70 per cent of electricians’ time.

Labour MP for Hayes and Harlington John McDonnell the protesting electricians to join a major public sector demonstration in November.

Mr McDonnell said:  “If Balfour Beatty get away with cutting wages in this dispute then other companies wil do it across the country. 

“This dispute is critical to the trade union movement.

“These companies are hear to cut wages and put people on the dole.”

Mr McDonnell pledged to take the dispute to parliament when MPs returned from the current recess.

He added:  “We will expose construction companies intention to cut wages and jobs in parliament.

“Your wages are being cut but what isn’t being cut is directors pay and profits – they are milking this industry.”

The latest research by CNinsight found average employee salaries have fallen by 1.7 per cent in the last year but directors pay has fallen by 2.5 per cent.

Around 300 protesters entered the Costain/Laing O’Rourke site during the demonstration, halting work for at least half an hour until police vans arrived.

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