Contractor loses court bid to block strike by electricians

Balfour Beatty has lost its bid to the High Court to block a proposed strike by sparks working for the firm’s engineering services division.

Judge David Eady refused to issue an injunction to block the strike action in a written judgment this morning.

Unite members at Balfour Beatty Engineering Services (BBES) voted by two to one to strike over the termination the 40-year-old Joint Industry Board (JIB) wage agreement earlier this month. The ballot was then challenged by the contractor in the High Court.

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 bid to try to overturn the result- something it had previously achieved following a ballot in November.

Unite had agreed not to call for strike action until the results of the hearing were known

The union has said strike action could hit “high profile projects” such as Crossrail, Sellafield and Grangemouth.

In his ruling Justice Eady said: “It seems to me that, so far as reasonably practical, every person entitled to vote had a voting paper sent to him/her and also was afforded a convenient opportunity to vote by post.

“Indeed, I think it fair to say that Unite went to considerable lengths to ensure democratic legitimacy which might be thought to exceed what would ordinarily be expected.

“I am not persuaded that Unite is threatening or intending to do anything that would be unlawful. There would be no ground, therefore, on which to grant an injunction.”

Len McCluskey, general secretary for Unite, said: “All too often employers are trying to use the courts to undermine the democratic will of their workforces, when they should be putting their energies into resolving disputes.

“We trust that employers will now recognise that disputes aren’t settled in the court room but around the negotiating table.”