Unite General Secretary Len McCluskey has told London rally the ballot against “sign or be sacked” contracts will begin on 16th November


Thousands of electricians facing the imposition of 35% pay cuts or the threat of redundancy have welcomed the announcement that Unite is to ballot more than 1,500 Balfour Beatty employees, beginning on Wednesday 16th November.

If the ballot returns a “yes” vote, strike action could follow in early December.

Speaking ahead of a rally at The Shard construction project in London’s financial district, Unite General Secretary Len McCluskey said: “if Balfour Beatty and their fellow conspirators get their way, eight out of nine workers will lose one third of their pay and will lose any voice they have over their working lives.

“These employers have threatened to sack any worker who does not sign up to their employers’ ‘charter’.

“Unite members have shown that they are not going to sign away their future livelihoods. Our members have been demanding a ballot so that they can defend their skills and pay.  They have families to support and mortgages to pay and simply cannot afford to hand over a third of their pay to maintain the profits of their bosses.”

The day of protest began with an unofficial, pre-dawn blockade at the construction site for what will be Europe’s second tallest building, The Pinnacle Tower – nicknamed “the helter-skelter”. The project was initially valued at £750 million, but costs have escalated since building began in 2009.

Sparks and supporters then marched through the City towards London Bridge.  The demonstration continues with a march along the Embankment and a lobby of parliament.  A second demonstration is taking place in Edinburgh, concluding with a lobby of the Scottish Parliament.

The day of action is the culmination of three months of protests, involving thousands of electricians, outside construction sites, power stations, oil refineries, nuclear plants and other projects from Scotland and Cumbria, to Lincolnshire and London.

Today’s event coincides with separate demonstrations across London by students and members of the #OccupyLSX protest outside St Paul’s Cathedral.

There is growing anger over an attack by Balfour Beatty Engineering Services, along with six other firms, to withdraw from five long-standing agreements covering safety and skill levels which will result in 35% pay cuts.  Critics fear the new regime will also stifle training and apprenticeships if it is imposed as the companies currently intend.

The seven breakaway contractors 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.

Watch our film report on the background to today’s protest here:

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