Socialist Worker

Electricians at Balfour Beatty vote by 81 percent to strike

by Simon Basketter
Issue No. 2280

Electricians at Balfour Beatty have voted overwhelmingly to strike against bosses’ attempts to destroy their terms and conditions.

The ballot of Unite union members closed today, Tuesday. Some 81 percent of almost 450 workers across Britain voted to strike.

Construction bosses want to impose new contracts that would cut wages by 35 percent and introduce a new semi-skilled grade of worker.

Balfour Beatty is one of seven building contractors who have set up the Building Engineering Services National Agreement (Besna) in opposition to the existing Joint Industry Board (JIB) national industry agreement.

The first official strike should to take place on 7 December. That is the day that Balfour has threatened to sack workers who haven’t signed the new contracts.

Unite has also said that it intends to ballot two other companies – Crown House Technologies and NG Bailey.

The front man for Besna is former Tory councillor Blane Judd. He moaned, “Unite’s strike mandate was achieved through the use of misleading and unjustified scare tactics.”

He seems to be rattled by the magnificent campaign that rank and file electricians have led. They have been holding protests, pickets and occupations for over three months.

Balfour Beatty is rattled too. It claimed, “We have strong grounds to believe that Unite’s strike ballot procedures were flawed and BBES plan to request the court to take out an injunction in the next few days.”

There is an official mandate for striking. The action must go ahead – whether a judge finds a technicality in the anti-union laws to rule it illegal or not.

One member of the London electricians’ rank and file committee told Socialist Worker, “The massive yes vote shows that we are determined to fight this all the way. With the announcement of two other companies to be balloted, the campaign is really gaining momentum.

“If Balfour uses the anti trade union laws to overturn the ballot, well we will just have to strike anyway. We're not having some overpaid toff judge telling us we can't strike and have to take a 35 percent pay cut.”

Rank and file electricians have shown a magnificent level of militancy. The pressure is building for the dispute to escalate and win.

Tomorrow electricians will protest at Balfour’s Blackfriars site in London before marching to join striking public sector workers’ picket lines.

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