Employees could face redundancy

The eight major electrical contractors involved in a bitter row with workers over pay and conditions have put their entire electrical staff of about 6,000 workers on notice of redundancy.

The firms - including Balfour Beatty and NG Bailey - have informed employees they must sign up to the proposed new Building Engineering Services National Agreement (BESNA) by 7 December or face redundancy.

A spokesperson for the contractors described the move as a “technicality”, adding the firms did not intend to make anyone redundant.

But the news has outraged union Unite - which has been organising protests against the new wage proposals after being excluded from negotiations on pay and conditions for the first time in 40 years.

Following three weeks of strikes, protests again took place on Wednesday outside the Olympic site in Stratford, London, and Grangemouth power station near Falkirk, with demonstrations also reported to have taken place in Manchester and Newcastle.

The BESNA would replace the 40-year-old Joint Industry Board (JIB) wage agreement run jointly by the Electrical Contractors’ Association and Unite.

A spokeswoman for Unite said: “The employers have acted in a heavy handed and aggressive way. We want to negotiate within the existing JIB agreement. We are not prepared to be dictated to in this way.”

But Blane Judd, chief executive of the Heating and Ventilating Contractors’ Association, which has drawn up the BESNA agreement with the breakaway firms, called on the union to come back to the table and set out its “specific concerns”.

“They have instead resorted to scaremongering and putting out misinformation,” he said.

“We can’t wait for the union. The industry isn’t waiting for us. Clients are looking for a cost effective solution and we need to be seen to be moving forward.”