Sparks are celebrating a major breakthrough in their battle to stop a co-ordinated attempt by some of Britain's biggest construction firms to deskill their jobs and impose pay cuts of up to 35% after main player Balfour Beatty threw in the towel.
Balfour has given up on trying to kill off JIB, an industry-wide agreement on pay and conditions, so it could be replaced with the vastly inferior Besna plan, which would have let contractors raise and lower hourly pay depending on what tasks were being done, rather than maintaining a standard wage for skilled work. For some electricians this would have meant a fall in hourly rates from £16.25 to £10 – a 35% cut.
The victory comes after months of campaigning from within the industry which saw grassroots organisers bring out hundreds of electricians on weekly protests for months and culminated in wildcat strikes last year after their vote for official action with the Unite union was thrown out by the courts.
In September a group of around 1,500 electricians workers at the Lindsey oil refinery in Lincolnshire walked out to join demonstrating electricians and November saw one of the largest nationwide wildcat strikes of 2011.
Six other firms are still backing the Besna plan at the time of writing, however Balfour was the leading firm involved and provided much of the financial brawn behind it. Unite union negotiators announced the withdrawal this morning and suggested that "high-level talks" are now going to take place on the future of industry's pay formulas.