Construction firm staff vote to strike


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The Independent Online

Workers at a leading construction firm have voted in favour of strike action in a long-running row over pay and conditions, it was announced tonight.

Unite said its members at Balfour Beatty Engineering Services (BBES) backed industrial action by 67% after being re-balloted following a legal challenge to an earlier vote.

Electricians, plumbers and heating and ventilating engineers were among those who voted for strike action which Unite warned could hit high profile projects and sites such as Crossrail, Sellafield and Grangemouth.

Unite said it had given an undertaking to the courts that it will not call industrial action until after the outcome of a hearing due to be held next Tuesday after another legal challenge from the company.

National officer Bernard McAulay said: "This high yes vote for strike action indicates the resentment felt by our members. They are enraged over the use of bully-boy tactics used to try and usher in an era of de-skilling across the sector as well as massive pay cuts.

"Balfour Beatty needs to recognise it has lost the support of its employees. They need to re-join the industry-wide agreements which have served the industry so well. Our members know that Balfour Beatty is a vastly profitable company and that it has no need whatsoever to rob them of their livelihoods so that it can increase its profits."

The union is in dispute with seven firms, claiming they have "torn up" agreements and set new pay and conditions in the industry.

Unite has reported the firms to the Office of Fair Trading (OFT), claiming they acted in an anti-competitive way by "driving down" pay and conditions.

Unite said it was the first complaint of its kind by a union and comes amid continuing protests across the country which started last year.

A total of 295 Unite members at Balfour Beatty voted in favour of a strike, 145 voted no, with six spoilt papers in a 50% turnout.

A company spokesman said: "Balfour Beatty Engineering Services (BBES) is disappointed that with 96% of our employees already signed up to the Besna agreement and ready to move forward to secure new work and opportunities in 2012, Unite has today announced a ballot result claiming a narrow mandate for strike action.

"Only 295 BBES staff and operative employees, out of a workforce of 3,063, actually voted in favour of strike action. A number of fundamental deficiencies in the Unite ballot have again been identified from the inclusion of non-BBES staff, non-receipt of ballot papers and the mis-categorisation of sites and our employees.

"BBES has made application to the High Court for an injunction restraining Unite from acting on the outcome of this ballot on the grounds of these fundamental deficiencies and we await the outcome of our application.

"We urge Unite to re-engage in useful dialogue through Acas."