Balfour Beatty withdraws controversial contracts

17 Feb

Photo by Dennis Fallon

Britain’s largest trade union, Unite, today (Friday 17 February) welcomed the withdrawal of controversial contracts by Balfour Beatty Engineering Services (BBES), which would have resulted in the termination of long-held agreements and the de-skilling of construction workers.

The imposition of the new contracts by BBES were at the heart of a long running dispute, which saw electricians, plumbers, heating and ventilating engineers vote overwhelmingly for strike action twice.

The withdrawal of the contracts follows talks between Unite general secretary, Len McCluskey and Balfour Beatty’s chief executive officer Mike Peasland. They will be followed by further high level talks to secure members’ livelihoods and the stability of the industry.

BBES was one of seven construction firms who sought to tear up the long-standing Joint Industry Boards agreements and impose new semi-skilled grades. The new contracts would have led to pay cuts of up to 30 per cent and poorer terms and conditions for key construction staff.

The union calls on the other six firms to follow the lead of the main player Balfour Beatty and withdraw the contracts and the threat of dismissal.

Welcoming the news, Len McCluskey, general secretary of Unite, said: “Balfour Beatty’s decision to withdraw these contracts, the threat of dismissal and to enter high level talks is a welcome move. Not only is it a victory for common sense, but it is testament to the resolve of hard working construction workers who have stood shoulder to shoulder to defend their livelihoods.

“Continuing to impose these contracts would have resulted in a race to the bottom that would have been bad for the industry. We expect the other six construction firms to see sense and follow Balfour Beatty’s lead in talking seriously about securing livelihoods and bringing stability to the industry.”

Read the joint statement: Unite and Balfour Beatty Engineering Services (BBES) in talks to end the BESNA dispute (PDF)

ENDS

For further information contact Unite head of media and campaigns Alex Flynn on 020 3371 2066 or 07967 665 869.

The six other contractors are: NG Bailey Building Services; Crown House Technologies; Gratte Brothers; Spie Matthew Hall; Shepherd Engineering Services (SES); and T. Clarke Plc.

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