Ballot of up to 6,000 workers to be held “within a few weeks”

Union Unite has called a strike ballot of up to 6,000 electrical workers over the ongoing bitter dispute over proposed changes to their pay and conditions.

A union spokesperson said the ballot - by far the largest in construction for five years - will be held “within a few weeks”.

The action is being taken after eight of the industry’s largest electrical contractors – including Balfour Beatty and NG Bailey – agreed to ditch a 40-year-old wage agreement between employers and workers in favour of drawing up a new agreement.

Unite said the ballot will initially be targeted at Balfour Beatty workers, as it is seen as the “ring-leader” behind the proposed wages changes.

Protests against the move are set to enter their ninth week tomorrow, with demonstrations planned outside Balfour Beatty’s Blackfriars station site in London and Manchester town hall.

Unite national officer, Bernard McAulay said: “We believe Balfour Beatty is the main aggressor among a group of companies trying to bully their workers into signing away their livelihoods so Unite is therefore balloting them first. We have warned them repeatedly that their greed will bring mayhem to an industry desperately trying to steer a path through the recession, but they refuse to listen.

“The failure of the senior management at Balfour Beatty to withdraw the threats of dismissal has left Unite with no choice than to prepare for an industrial action ballot with Balfour Beatty, the ring-leader of these break-away firms.

“This is a vastly profitable company. It has no need whatsoever to rob its employees in order to satisfy its shareholders. Perhaps the threat of strike action will bring Balfour Beatty to its senses and back to the negotiating table.”