ECA and Unite in talks over 5% wage deal due to take effect in January 2010

Discussions are taking place between the ECA and trade union Unite over the implementation of the 5% wage increase due in January 2010.

Talks are taking place via the Joint Industry Board for the Electrical Contracting Industry (JIB) at both employee relations committee and national board level.

The ECA is seeking an agreement with Unite to spread the cost of the 2010 increase over a longer period. In an update to members, the ECA said the move would “promote the competitiveness of JIB member firms and secure jobs for JIB employees in the difficult times that lie ahead”.

The ECA argues that the recession is having a serious impact on members, with many facing work shortages and having to make redundancies.

Diane Johnson of electrical contractor Eric Johnson of Northwich said: “I appreciate that we have a three-year agreement with the union, but nobody could have imagined we would be in this situation when that was negotiated. We are struggling to get clients to accept the 2009 wage increase and there are blue-chip companies out there who will not allow rates to go up in 2010.

“We don’t want to drive prices down, but if our prices are too high, we are not going to get the work. We have to all sit down – the JIB, employers and the unions, work together and see what we can do.”

Alex Meikle, head of employee relations at the ECA, said: “We have identified to the union that the market has turned upside down and, to be fair, the union has been helpful.”

The issue was on the table at a meeting of the JIB employee relations committee on 7 May, and a reconvened wage negotiation committee is expected to meet before the end of May.

“The aim would be to protect jobs for union members,” said Meikle.