Wage row between unions and employers’ association threatens widespread walk-outs

Sites across the country are facing severe disruption after thousands of electricians threatened strike action over an escalating pay dispute.

The threat came as relations between employers and union Unite reached breaking point this week.

In a letter seen by Building, employers claimed that the union’s stewards had made “a mockery of the national wage bargaining process”.

A deal was agreed between the ECA and union leaders in April, but was rejected by union stewards for being too low.

A wage agreement for 2008-11 was signed in April between employers and the union, but rejected by an employee ballot last month.

Sites face severe disruption
Sites face severe disruption

The Joint Industry Board (JIB) had proposed a 14.8% pay rise over three years: 4.67% this year, 4.5% next year and 5% the year after.

The letter was sent by Alex Meikle, head of employee relations at the Electrical Contractors Association (ECA), to Tom Hardacre, the head of construction in the Amicus section of Unite.

In it Meikle said the future of the nationwide agreement would be put “at serious risk” if union officers did not take a hard line with members over pay increases.

A letter with the ballot papers reported the stewards’ concerns and did not explicitly ask workers to accept the agreement.

Meikle noted the low turn-out for the ballot, and claimed people who were not part of the JIB agreement may have wrongly received papers.

A Unite source said: “We’re taking legal advice on trying to identify bona fide members of the union, regarding balloting.”

Last week, Unite stewards rejected another JIB proposal. The union is now preparing to vote on strike action if a wage increase is not agreed.