Chief operating officer Andrew McNaughton insists modernisation agreement with Unite was turning point

Balfour’s Beatty’s operations boss has denied that threats from US unions or the current race for much-coveted nuclear new build contracts were the reason the firm dropped its controversial wage agreement.

Balfour Beatty Engineering Services’ surprise move to ditch the BESNA pay and conditions scheme last month came after the firm lost a court bid to block a strike by the firm’s Unite union members over the plans.

Reports had suggested the firm dropped the proposals due to threats from the US Teamster union to lead industrial action in the US market, as well as fears ongoing industrial action might impact on the firm’s bids to win nuclear contracts from EDF and Horizon.

But chief operating officer Andrew McNaughton said those issues were “irrelevant”, with the decision to abandon BESNA made after an agreement was reached with Unite that the industry must be modernised.

He said: “The issue was about us being able to get to a point that jointly we can recognise the need to modernise.

“The organisations were in different places about the need to modernise. But now we’ve got to that position and we’re now actively engaged in how we take it forward.”