Balfour Beatty Engineering Services among firms intending to terminate ECA membership amid dispute

Some of the industry’s largest electrical contractors are lining up to terminate their membership of the Electrical Contractors Association, amid one of the largest industrial relations disputes in over a decade.

Balfour Beatty’s mechanical and engineering division, Balfour Beatty Engineering Services (BBES), confirmed it had served the Electrical Contractors Association (ECA) notice of its resignation. The ECA claims to represent over 3,000 firms turning over £5bn.

Regardless of the issue, it would be inappropriate to discuss the actions of our members

ECA statement

Crown House and SPIE Matthew Hall both told Building that they intend to quit the ECA.

The move has been prompted by a bitter industrial relations dispute involving seven major electrical contractors, the union Unite and several trade federations.

The seven firms - BBES, Crown House, SPIE Matthew Hall, T Clarke, Gratte Brothers, Shepherd Engineering Services and NG Bailey - sparked five consecutive months of protests last year after announcing their intention to ditch the 40-year-old Joint Industry Board (JIB) wage agreement between employers and workers. The JIB is jointly run by the ECA and Unite.

The firms called upon the ECA’s rival trade federation the Heating and Ventilating Contractors Association (HVCA) to draw up new wage proposals, called the Building Engineering Services National Agreement (BESNA).

About 6,000 workers have been asked to sign up to BESNA by the week ending 6 April or face redundancy.

Unite balloted BBES for strike action yesterday - a result will be announced on 2 February.

Building understands the other contractors behind BESNA who were unavailable for comment when Building went to press are also reconsidering their membership of the ECA.

The ECA said in a statement: “Regardless of the issue, it would be inappropriate to discuss the actions of any of our members.”

John Moore, chief executive at BBES, called for there to be “one association and one agreement [the HVCA and BESNA]”.

The HVCA will rebrand to become the Building and Engineering Services Association from March, in a bid to be a “one-stop-shop […] for building and engineering services”.

The breakdown in relations between the ECA and some of its major members began after talks to merge the ECA and HVCA broke down in 2010 and were damaged further by what the contractors perceived to be bungled attempts to reform the JIB.