Result of Unite ballot due tomorrow as protest mounted in Leeds

A union ballot of Balfour Beatty Engineering Services (BBES) for strike action draws to a close tomorrow with the result expected that afternoon.

Amid the on-going bitter dispute between electricians and their employers, the vote - which opened on January 19 - is union Unite’s first ballot of seven contractors behind the ditching of the 40-year-old Joint Industry Board (JIB) wage agreement.

Unite members at BBES voted 81% in favour of strike action last November, but the union was forced to back down after the contractor highlighted alleged deficiencies in the vote.

Bernard McAuley, Unite’s national officer for construction, said earlier this month he was “confident” BBES workers would back strike action.

The proposed changes could see our members lose up to a third of their income

In a related protest, more than 100 Unite members this morning staged a demonstration outside Trinity Shopping Centre in Leeds city centre, which is being redeveloped by Land Securities and is being worked on by one of the seven contractors, Crown House.

The protesters also handed in a petition, signed by hundreds of local people, to the deputy leader of the council at Leeds Civic Hall calling on the local authority not to tender work to the seven employers.

Chris Weldon, Unite regional officer, said: “Our members are calling on the council to do the right thing and not to award any further contracts to the seven construction companies that are arbitrarily ripping-up long standing and highly regarded industry agreements.

“The proposed changes could see our members lose up to a third of their income and with the cost of living and day-to-day bills sky-rocketing, they simply cannot afford it. These workers are extremely angry at these proposed changes which are a serious attack on thousands of construction workers’ livelihoods.”

The seven companies are introducing the new agreement with the Heating and Ventilating Contractors’ Association (HVCA), which condemned Weldon’s comments.

HVCA chief executive Blane Judd said: “The claims by protesters in Leeds that the new agreement will lead to massive pay cuts are total fiction. No one will take a pay cut – in fact 30% will see an increase in their pay packets.

“This new agreement will create job security and give apprentices and skilled staff a bright future which is something that British industry needs to see right now.”