Wage agreement which sparked five months of protests loses last supporters

All seven contractors behind the controversial Building Engineering Services National Agreement (BESNA) have now dumped the wage proposals, the firms have confirmed.

Crown House, Shepherd Engineering Services, Gratte Brothers, Spie Matthew Hall and T Clarke join Balfour Beatty and NG Bailey in quitting scheme – which sparked over five months of protests.

The controversial wage agreement at the centre of a storm of protests by electricians had looked doomed after Balfour Beatty Engineering Services (BBES) quit BESNA last Friday after losing a court bid to block a strike by the firm’s Unite workers.

The move by BBES threw the heavyweight M&E sector into chaos and prompted frantic meetings between BESNA’s remaining supporters to determine its future.

Yesterday, NG Bailey said it too would quit the agreement, saying that Balfour’s withdrawal made BESNA “untenable”.

The Heating and Ventilating Contractors Association (HVCA) – which drew up the BESNA proposals with the contractors – had refused to comment on the developments this week, but today confirmed that the agreement was dead, with the remaining five firms pulling out.

The statement read: “In consultation with the remaining companies and following discussions with Unite, it has been agreed that HVCA will withdraw its proposal for the Building Engineering Services National Agreement.

“As a result of today’s decision by HVCA, Unite has agreed not to pursue further industrial action or protests against the BESNA companies.

“HVCA, supported by its member companies, will now engage in high-level talks with Unite within an agreed timeline, with the aim of creating new proposals and ensuring agreed terms are honoured.”

The HVCA’s rival trade the Electrical Contractors’ Association, which jointly runs the 40-year-old Joint Industry Board wage agreement with the Unite union has said it was “delighted” with the events.

The ECA and Unite have called for the firms to enter into dialogue aimed at creating new proposals.

There have been five consecutive months of protests against BESNA, including a 1,000-strong London rally, a sit-in of a contractor’s headquarters and violent clashes with police.

Over 6,000 workers were asked to sign up to the BESNA pay and conditions proposals by the first week of April or face redundancy. Almost 90% of the workers had done so as of 13 February.