Unite electricians from Scotland and north-west of England joined protest to return unsigned “BESNA” contracts


Dozens of Unite electricians have handed back unsigned, letters they had received from the construction giant, Balfour Beatty demanding they accept the terms of “sign or be sacked” contracts by next Monday (9th January), in a mass lobby at the company’s head office outside Glasgow.

Rank and file sparks across Scotland had agreed to take part in the collective show of defiance ahead of further protests expected next week.

The group also handed in around 60 unsigned letters from fellow Unite members working at the Sellafield nuclear power station in Cumbria.

The company refused to admit any of the electricians to the building.  They were told to put their contracts and accompanying letters in a basket outside the building.

One rank and file activist told us: “We will not be intimidated by the rogue firms. This campaign will continue and the rogue firms will need to realise that just because there’s been a Christmas break, it doesn’t make the workers any less determined  to fight off the BESNA.”

Unite officer Scott Foley, who was at this morning’s protest, told UnionNews: “Balfours have refused to allow individual members into the building to discuss their concerns about the contracts.

“Their attitude seems to be ‘sign or you’re out’.

“But I don’t know how they think that equates with their statutory requirements. Workers are entitled to a face-to-face meeting with managers if they are being threatened with redundancy.”

Senior union officials have this week promised activists that Unite will commit “all the resources they need” to the campaign against the imposition of new contracts by the so-called “BESNA” group of seven major employers in the industry.

Talks last month at the conciliation service, ACAS, failed to secure any agreement from the rogue firms that they would lift the looming threat of redundancy over thousands of sparks.

Unite says the imposition of the contracts would massively erode skills, training and safety standards on construction sites and would result in effective pay cuts of 35% across the board.

Watch our film report of recent protests here:

A document seen by UnionNews indicates that companies and sub-contractors who are not part of the breakaway group remain concerned at the BESNA threat to set skill levels unilaterally.

It says non-breakaway firms believe the seven companies are threatening to “completely undermine the much more robust arrangements which … independently certify the skills of tradesmen. Under the [new] arrangements, the employer alone will determine the trade competence of electricians and other [industry] operatives.”

The document indicates that the firms fear that the BESNA group will undermine health benefits, make a long-established occupational pension scheme more expensive, and could lead to an increase in Employment Tribunal cases against unfair dismissal.

The document says the companies “will strongly oppose any attempts to undermine the independence of skill certification for electricians.”

Unite is understood to have sent letters to the home addresses of around 8,000 construction workers in preparation for new ballots at Balfour Beatty and two other firms in the BESNA group.

Officials are eager to avoid a repeat of last month’s threat of a legal challenge to an earlier ballot among Balfour Beatty members which returned a majority of more than 81% in favour of strike action.

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