Socialist Worker

Sparks vote to strike

by Simon Basketter and Mark Krantz
Issue No. 2289

Electricians in the Unite union at Balfour Beatty Engineering Services (BBES) have voted for a second time to strike. A previous strike was called off after threats of an injunction in December.

The company is one of a group of contractors that have set up the Building Engineering Services National Agreement (Besna) in opposition to the existing JIB agreement.

The move would cut wages by up to a third.

Some 67 percent voted to strike. This is an excellent result given the confusion that has been caused by the union—both in the timing of the ballot and in its advice to members to sign contracts and submit letters of protest.

The ballot was immediately challenged by Balfour Beatty in the courts. The result of the case was due as Socialist Worker went to press.

Members of the electricians’ rank and file committees around the country met in Birmingham last Saturday. They decided that the next big focus would be a day of action on Wednesday 15 February.

This should be the day that Unite should call an official strike in the event that it wins the court case.

And regardless of the court’s decision, unofficial action should happen everywhere. Workers are gearing up to hold walkouts and gate protests on the day.

In London there should be a Unite-backed march on Besna’s London offices at lunchtime, and a protest at the Electrical Contractors Association gala dinner being held at the Grosvenor Hotel on Park Lane in the evening.

Some 100 workers in Leeds held their first protest on Wednesday of last week.

And in Manchester electricians and supporters protested inside the Town Hall, where Balfour Beatty is building an extension.

One electrician, Steve, said, “We got no answer from the councillors after our last visit so we are back today.”

Electricians protested at Blackfriars in London on Friday, and outside the house of Balfour Beatty chief executive John Moore in Glasgow on Saturday.

Protests like this can be an imaginative way to pull in activists. The key to beating Besna remains the ability to deliver hard-hitting strikes.


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Tue 7 Feb 2012, 18:06 GMT
Issue No. 2289
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