Scottish construction workers demonstrate at George Street Edinburgh as Unite ballots Balfour Beatty

22 Nov

Construction workers will be demonstrating at 70-74 George Street, Assembly Rooms, Edinburgh on Wednesday, 23rd November over the de-skilling and pay cuts being imposed by a group of rogue construction firms.

Unite, Scotland’s largest union, is balloting its members in Balfour Beatty Engineering Services for industrial action. The strike ballot follows Balfour Beatty’s failure to step back from imposing contractual changes which will see thousands of workers’ wages cut by one third.

Unite has learnt that up to 100 construction workers will be staging their protest at George Street at 10am which has been targeted as Balfour Beatty is a major contractor on the site.

Balfour Beatty Engineering Services, along with six other leading construction companies, informed Unite of its intention to withdraw from five long-standing agreements and impose new semi-skilled grades resulting in massive cuts in pay. The attack will hit electricians, plumbers and heating and ventilating engineers working at sites around Scotland, including the Vellodrome in Glasgow and Grangemouth power station.

Unite is balloting Balfour Beatty Engineering Services first as it believes the firm is acting as the `ring-leader’ of the break-away employers, with five firms out of the seven threatening to sack workers who refuse to sign the new and inferior contracts by a deadline of 7 December.

Unite regional officer, Rab Sherry said:

“We believe Balfour Beatty is the main aggressor among a group of companies trying to bully their workers into signing away their livelihoods.  Unite members are being balloted for strike action at Balfour Beatty Engineering Services because Balfour Beatty are imposing new contracts and have told their workers sign or be sacked. Balfour Beatty also pulled out of a meeting with the union last week so they are obviously not wanting a negotiated solution to this dispute. 

“Construction workers in Scotland cannot afford to take massive pay cuts that these firms are proposing and that is why they want to defend what they have.

The timescale for the ballot with Balfour Beatty has yet to be confirmed and the locations of strikes will be decided in due course. The union has also said that the threat of dismissal must be removed before meaningful discussions can take place. The other six companies will be balloted in the next phase of Unite’s fight to defend its members.

The protest at George Street is not a call for unofficial strike action by Unite. It is Unite’s understanding that those involved in the demonstrations are doing so outside of work hours to avoid any suggestion that this is unofficial strike action.


Notes to news editors:

For further information, please contact Unite communication officer, Liane Groves on 07793 661657 or Unite regional officer, Rab Sherry 07904 057405

The seven major break-away contractors currently involved are: Balfour Beatty Engineering Services Limited; NG Bailey Building Services; Crown House Technologies; Gratte Brothers; Spie Matthew Hall; Shepherd Engineering Services (SES); and T. Clarke Plc.

Workers in five of the seven break-away companies have been written to by their managers with a stark choice – sign new contracts on much inferior pay, and terms and conditions or face the sack. Balfour Beatty, Crown House Technologies; Spie Matthew Hall; Shepherd Engineering Services; and NG Bailey have issued Unite with legal notice of their intention to dismiss, with notice, thousands of employees before re-engaging them on new inferior contracts.


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