Sparks’ protests roll into seventh week as Unite warns of industry revolution

Union Unite has warned of an “industry revolution” if leading electrical contractors refuse to back down on plans to change their workers’ pay and conditions.

In a seventh week of protests, electricians demonstrated outside Park House retail development on Oxford Street in London, Liverpool Central Library and Cambuslang fire station in Lanarkshire this morning.

Bernard McAuley, Unite’s national secretary for construction, said plans for a strike ballot over the dispute were progressing.

Electricians are protesting in response to the decision by eight of the industry’s largest electrical contractors – including Balfour Beatty and NG Bailey – to ditch the 40-year-old Joint Industry Board (JIB) wage agreement in favour of drawing up a new agreement.

About 6,000 workers were put on notice last month by the breakaway firms and given until 7 December to sign up to the proposed new Building Engineering Services National Agreement (BESNA) or face redundancy.

However the union claims MJN Colston has become the first contractor to back down – although the HVCA, which has helped the breakaway firms draw up BESNA, argues the firm has merely opted to progress at a slower pace.

McAuley said: “This is an industry revolution. There is a way forward, but it is not with BESNA.”

He added he had met with the chief executives of all the other contractors involved but claimed they had refused to back down.