Sparks defy “Besna 2” with nationwide protests

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By John Millington

Electricians will step up their campaign to protect pay and end blacklisting in the industry with a series of protests outside key construction sites across the country tomorrow.

Rank and file trade unionists will hold static protests at Heathrow Airport to pressure construction bosses at Laing O’Rourke not to impose new contracts on their staff – a charge denied by the company.

And workers in Glasgow will target construction transnational Balfour Beatty over “continuing blacklisting” of trade unionists.

The Unite union have expressed concerns that controversial plans to cut pay by over 30 percent and wide spread de-skilling in the industry are being restarted under what they call the “Besna 2” contract.

A text apparently from Crown House (a Laing O’Rourke subsidiary) to employees stated that:

“As you are all now fully aware the company has taken action to ensure we can remain competitive in the long term. To this end we will be shortly be dispatching new contracts to all operatives. If you should choose not to sign, your employment will automatically be terminated. To avoid this signed & dated contracts are be returned by close of business on Friday the 7th of September 2012.”

Bosses at Laing O’Rourke have insisted the text was fraudulent but have refused to comment on whether they intend to issue new contracts in the future.

Currently all Crown House staff are on Joint Industry Board (JIB) contracts which regulate pay and conditions across the industry.

However it is understood Laing O’Rourke do not sit on the board itself.

Union activists suspect the company is still bitter after the first attempt to force through the Besna contract was defeated following mass trade union action and may now try to steam ahead and force new inferior contracts of their employees.

Unite member and councillor Jim Harte said: “The BESNA campaign resulted in the biggest victory for trade unionists in over 20 years, and one in which we all should be proud. But now it is back”

“Crown House and its parent company, Laing O’Rourke, have pulled out of the JIB agreements and are threatening to impose new terms and conditions on the workforce.

“One of the architects of BESNA, Laing O’Rourke, refused to accept defeat and are determined to go ahead with the de-skilling agenda by bringing in installers and driving down wages and terms & conditions.”

He also warned that if Laing O’Rourke did make such a move, other construction companies would follow suit.

“We cannot allow that to happen,” he added.

“The threat to our industry is back and this time they are more determined. However, the fightback has begun. Rank and File demonstrations have started in London and will be rolled out in different parts of the country, wherever Crown House are operating.

“Unite the Union are about to re-enact the leverage campaign against them, which proved to be so successful last time round.”

Unite national Officer Guy Langston told the Dreadnaught that the JIB agreement is in place to “build industrial relations.”

But those relations are now at “an all time low because of Crown House/Laing O’Rourke,” he said.

“They don’t want to pay the rate to electricians and are looking to lower the rate by 6 or 7 pound an hour of  a skilled electrician.”

Laing O’Rourke refused to speak about the issues raised telling the Dreadnaught they had “no further comment to make.”

The company’s total group revenue increased by almost 8 per cent to £4.3 billion last year.

Meanwhile fellow construction company Balfour Beatty are in court again next Tuesday (28th August) at the Central London Employment Tribunal where construction worker Chris Clarke is claiming “victimisation for trade union activities” from an incident that happened 20 years ago.

The legal claim is being brought because of documents recently released by the Information Commissioners Office which identify Balfour Beatty as having supplied information about Mr. Clarke to an illegal blacklist run by the notorious Consulting Association.

Entries on the blacklist file relate to a strike about unpaid wages on the A406 North Circular Road civil engineering project at Hanger Lane, London in 1992.

Mr Clake said: “I was blacklisted by Balfour Beatty in 1992 simply for asking for wages that were due to us from one of their sub-contractors. After this secret blacklist file was opened on me, work became more and more difficult to find, until I was virtually permanently unemployed.

“This caused great strains on my relationships and forced me into ill health. The likes of Balfour Beatty should be made to pay for what they do to ordinary working men whose only crime is to ask for simple justice”

A motion put forward on the GMB union calling for a “Leveson style enquiry” into blacklisting will be tabled at the TUC Congress next month.

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