Electricians claim that M&E contractor Balfour Kilpatrick has told leading construction recruitment agency Morson not to recruit London-based electricians for work on a £154m Pfizer pharmaceuticals plant in Sandwich, Kent.
Balfour Kilpatrick had industrial relations problems while working at the Royal Opera House.
The company confirmed that it had approached the agency to supply labour but denied that it told Morson not to recruit London electricians. A spokesperson for Balfour Kilpatrick said: “There was no indication given to the recruitment agency not to use London-based labour. We did try to use local labour and were unable to source the project so now we are looking at other locations.”
Morson declined to comment. But sources close to the company said the contractor had asked for non-London labour and that Morson had taken out an advertisement in the Sun newspaper to attract electricians from other parts of the country.
It is understood that the firm was particularly anxious to avoid electricians currently working on the Jubilee Line Extension, where contracts are due to end in the next four to six weeks.
A senior official from electricians union the AEEU said: “We have always opposed blacklisting within the industry and will always help our members oppose illegitimate discrimination. If any of our members contact us, we will investigate.”
However, one electrician who claims he is blacklisted said: “Right now if a London spark went to the AEEU to complain he would definitely end up blacklisted – the union wants rid of us as much as the employers.”
The electricians have announced that they will not hold any more wildcat strikes in protest against the pay deal agreed by the AEEU and the Electrical Contractors Association. The result of the ballot, due to start next Friday, should be known within five days of the vote.
It is understood that the AEEU has persuaded employers to drop changes that would have reduced overtime rates for weekend work. The deal will guarantee sparks a 28% pay increase over two years, but will still reduce electricians’ travelling allowances. The AEEU will ballot members on the agreement next week and will recommend acceptance of the deal.
One opera house electrician said: “My guess is that the concession might carry the ballot, but most London-based sparks will not be happy with it. There are other issues in the deal that undermine the status of electricians and if they go through we will end up like the bricklayers – any Tom, Dick or Harry will be able to put on a pair of overalls and say he is a spark.”