Attack on electricians' contracts wobbles as Balfour Beatty folds

Attack on electricians' contracts wobbles as Balfour Beatty folds

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.

Posted By

Rob Ray
Feb 17 2012 13:21


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Chilli Sauce
Feb 17 2012 13:30

Great news! Of course fucking UNITE will take credit for this, but great news for the Sparks involved as I can't imagine the other 7 BESNA companies will keep up the fight now that BB capitulated.

Feb 17 2012 13:32

awesome smile

Feb 17 2012 13:54

Main discussion and updates about this dispute since the beginning are here:

Rob Ray
Feb 17 2012 14:02

I could have used "appears" I guess. But from the press release alone all that's been said is that Besna's dead and there's going to be more talks, it doesn't say that JIB's going to be dumped so saying it's still under attack would be an assumption rather than something I could back up.

Rob Ray
Feb 17 2012 14:21

Sure, but I also don't want to be making assumptions without proof, which is what I'd be doing if I said Balfour were still rejecting JIB having backed off Besna. It's not what the press release is saying it's what other people haven't said (yet).

And yes I'm aware of what modernising means between the lines, however there's no detail of that and it may well happen within the JIB.

Rob Ray
Feb 17 2012 14:43

I'm not making an assumption, that's the point. It would be an assumption if I said that JIB was safe OR that it wasn't, but I didn't do either. I wrote:

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

Note here that I don't say that it's safe, or that it won't face further attacks, just that Balfour are no longer demanding it be killed off in favour of Besna. Point is you can't predict an outcome in a news article without evidence, that's what a comments section is for. Fwiw I guess they could end up doing a new replacement one (which can be reported on in due course), but more likely they'll simply try to reform the existing one now they have Unite on board.

Feb 17 2012 15:19
Tommy Ascaso wrote:
Does anybody know if the agreements have been around for that long? It's kind of surprising that the employers have waited until now to try and attack them!

the biggest costs involved in property development are usually more around land speculation than labour costs, so that reduces the incentive for employers to try hard as attacking pay and conditions. The excellent text the housing monster goes into this in detail:

Feb 17 2012 19:08

That's great news! But JIB is far from industry-wide. Electricians are lucky to get anything like a JIB job these days - believe me, I used to be JIB and they're rare. Good for them!

Feb 18 2012 03:18

The sparks won't back down like a lot of craven union bosses though. This is great news.

Feb 18 2012 16:47

I agree with Tommy Ascaso's caution here. A sudden (apparent) climbdown by the bosses on the eve of a union led strike, followed by the cancellation or indefinite postponement of strike action, points to some kind of back room deal. Plus as Jim says, both bosses and union are talking ominously about modernisation. Not to forget that a large part of the workforce in the building trade is not even covered by the JIB in the first place.