Results of Unite ballot of sparks immediately challenged by contractor with High Court hearing next week

Unite members at Balfour Beatty Engineering Services (BBES) have voted by two to one to strike over the termination the 40-year-old Joint Industry Board (JIB) wage agreement in a move set to be challenged by the contractor in the High Court.

Following a two week ballot of electrical and mechanical workers which ended today, the union said strike action could now hit “high profile projects” such as Crossrail, Sellafield and Grangemouth. 

Unite claims that BBES is the “ringleader” in a group of seven contractors trying to bring in the Building Engineering Services National Agreement (BESNA) which it says would lead to de-skilling and poorer terms and conditions.

However, BBES said low turnout meant only a fraction of workers had actually voted in favour of striking and said it would try to overturn the result– something it previously achieved following a ballot in November.

A court hearing on the matter will take place next Tuesday (7th Feb) and Unite has agreed not to call for strike action until the results of this are known.

Unite national officer, Bernard McAulay, said: “This high ‘yes’ vote for strike action indicates the resentment felt by our members. They are enraged over the use of bully-boy tactics used to try and usher in an era of de-skilling across the sector as well as massive pay cuts.”

However, a spokesman for BBES said: “The firm is disappointed that with 96% of our employees already signed up to the BESNA and ready to move forward to secure new work and opportunities in 2012, Unite has today announced a ballot result claiming  a narrow mandate for strike action.

“Only 295 BBES staff and operative employees, out of a workforce of 3,063, actually voted in favour of strike action.

“A number of fundamental deficiencies in the Unite ballot have again been identified from the inclusion of non-BBES staff, non-receipt of ballot papers and the mis-categorisation of sites and our employees.”

 Ballot result – (source: Unite)

Are you prepared to take part in strike action?

•     295 voted ‘yes’ (67%)

•     145 voted ‘no’ (32%)

•     6 spoilt ballot papers (1%)

Are you prepared to take part in industrial action short of strike action?

•     313 voted ‘yes’ (70%)

•     131 voted ‘no’ (29%)

•     2 spoilt ballot papers (1%)