Almost half of 1,250 Balfour Beatty workers affected by new national wage agreement sign up

Electricians have begun signing up to the controversial new Building Engineering Services National Agreement (BESNA) on wages.

Balfour Beatty Engineering Services (BBES) confirmed in a statement that 592 of 1,250 workers affected at the firm had signed up to date.

Balfour Beatty - along with six other major electrical contractors - announcd plans to ditch a 40-year-old wage agreement and replace it with BESNA last year, a move that sparked widespread protests.

Balfour Beatty electricians have until Monday (9 January) to sign up to the new agreement or face the threat of redundancy.

A BBES spokesperson said the contractor expected more signed contracts to arrive over the next few days. Those that don’t sign up will be invited to “one-on-one meetings to understand their remaining concerns”, the spokesperson added.

Building understands workers at four other contractors are facing similar deadlines to sign up to BESNA and that the firms have notified the government of the proposed changes - a legal requirement if a proportion of its workforce may be made redundant.

Union Unite said it was undeterred by BBES’ figures and reiterated its pledge to hold a strike ballot of its workers “imminently”.

Unite was forced to back down from strike action in December, after a successful strike ballot of BBES workers was challenged by BBES.

Around 6,000 workers at some of the industry’s largest electrical contractors have been asked to sign up to BESNA.

The other contractors involved are understood to be NG Bailey, T Clarke, Crown House, Gratte Brothers, Shepherd Engineering Services and SPIE Matthew Hall.

Unite intends to ballot all of the contractors for strike action in the coming weeks. A Unite spokesman said Balfour Beatty workers had only signed up to BESNA because “they’ve been threatened with dismissal if they don’t”.

“We’re completely confident we’ll win a new [BBES] ballot,” he said.

A spokesperson for BBES said: “The positive response to signing contracts demonstrates that our employees understand the importance of the BESNA to our business and industry as a whole.”