Coalition of trade bodies puts pressure on breakaway electrical contractors such as NG Bailey over workers’ pay

A coalition including the Electrical Contractors Association (ECA) has piled the pressure on some of its largest members to back down over their controversial proposed changes to electrical workers’ pay and conditions. The coalition’s move came as unions pledged to re-ballot the contractors for strike action.

Seven of the industry’s largest electrical contractors - including Balfour Beatty Engineering Services (BBES) and NG Bailey - have been subjected to more than three months of protests after they announced plans to ditch a 40-year-old wage agreement between employers and electrical workers.

In an exclusive interview with Building, a spokesperson for the ECA and three other fellow trade bodies said the contractors’ move was “damaging” the industry.

The spokesperson said: “By setting up unilaterally competing arrangements we’ll all lose out - it’s not too late [for the contractors] to step back now.”

The spokesperson condemned the Heating and Ventilating Contractors Association, which has drawn up pay proposals for electricians with the breakaway firms. He was speaking for the ECA, the Scottish & Northern Ireland Plumbing Employers’ Federation, the Association of Plumbing and Heating Contractors and Scottish body Select.

Bernard McAuley, national officer for construction at Unite, echoed the federations, adding industrial relations had been “seriously damaged” by the HVCA.
In addition he vowed to notify Balfour Beatty of a second strike ballot “before Christmas”, after the union was forced to scrap its original ballot in the face of the threat of legal action by the firm.

Unite members at BBES voted 81% in favour of strike action, but Balfour Beatty condemned the ballot alleging that just 21% of the workers affected had backed the strike because of low turnout.

Unite will ballot the other six electrical contractors in the New Year, McAuley added.

A spokesperson for the HVCA said: “HVCA is disappointed by these negative comments. Our members are looking to the future by seeking to modernise older agreements and create something more suitable for today’s construction sector.”